Friday, June 03, 2005

Razzoo Bouncers Indicted ...

We interrupt our series on the Big Easy is Uneasy article to bring you late breaking news on the "Razzoo incident" highlighted in yesterday's installment. Our series will resume tomorrow. The following excerpt is from TheNewOrleansChannel.com, via Yahoo News:

Razzoo Bouncers Indicted On Manslaughter Charges

A grand jury on Thursday indicted four club employees in the New Year's Eve death of a college student on Bourbon Street.

Arthur Irons, 40, Clay Montz, 32, and Matthew Tayor, 21, were arrested Jan. 6 and charged by police with negligent homicide. However, prosecutors said the facts of the case as well as the evidence support a manslaughter charge instead.

A fourth person, Brandon Vicknair, who held Levon Jones' legs down while the other defendants pinned his body to the ground, was also charged with manslaughter.

A legal expert described it as a possible strategy to improve the chance for indictment.

"It may be the district attorney wants to give the jury some alternatives," said former prosecutor Julian Murray. "Negligent homicide is a responsive verdict to manslaughter. So if the jury felt it wasn't manslaughter, it could still find them guilty of negligent homicide, so it may be a strategic reason why he would go with that."

Levon Jones, 25, of Georgia, was killed during an altercation with the suspects at Razzoo Patio and Bar. The bouncers said Jones became combative after a male friend was denied admission to the club. Jones' family said Jones was not a fighter and would only have become hostile if he or a friend was being threatened.

Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard ruled that Jones, who was 6 feet 1 inch tall and 205 pounds, was face-down in a chokehold with a bouncer's knee pressing on his upper back when he died. Minyard said Jones' carotid artery was compressed and his lungs collapsed, resulting in "cardiac death from suffocation."

Minyard said Jones' blood-alcohol level was almost 0.14 -- the equivalent of about four or five beers for a man Jones' size. He said the alcohol may have contributed to Jones' mood, but not his death.

Shortly after the incident, Razzoo released the following statement: "We stand by our staff. We stand by our original assertion that our staff was assaulted, and responded reasonably to that assault," the statement said in part. "As the investigation of this tragic incident proceeds and the full story can be told within the framework of our legal system, we are confident that justice will be served."

The grand jury is expected to view a 30-minute security video of the entire confrontation captured by cameras at Razzoo. In the video, Jones is alleged to be shown throwing the first punch, but Murray said that may not help the bouncers.

"Even if the victim were originally the aggressor, once they have him under control, any further punitive action they take against him -- for example, strangling him, sitting on him, doing anything more than necessary to control him -- would constitute a battery, and if he dies, then the result of that battery, of course, is manslaughter," Murray said.

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