This article was originally published by The New Orleans Advocate on June 6, 2019. See full article online.
The woman who was with her boyfriend the night Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies shot him to death in New Orleans in 2016 after a chase across the river recently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with a confrontation that took place at the shopping center earlier that evening.
With an agreement from the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office in hand, Tyshara Blouin, 26, pleaded guilty May 13 to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault. She received no jail time, and a provision in state law will allow her to have the conviction expunged.
The prosecution of Blouin drew claims that she was being punished for publicly criticizing Jefferson authorities for the fatal shooting of Eric Harris on Lundi Gras 2016 in Central City. The case’s resolution could hasten the progress of her wrongful-death lawsuit against the JPSO.
Harris’ death ended a confrontation that started at the Oakwood Center mall in Jefferson, continued with a car chase over the Crescent City Connection and ended with his being shot as he backed his car toward deputies in New Orleans.
The Sheriff’s Office said that after arguing with an ex-girlfriend inside the mall on the night of Feb. 6, Harris pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot her.
Harris fled when a Sheriff’s Office deputy approached him, investigators said. Blouin was accused of driving him away from the mall, past a security guard who tried to flag her down.
Harris was back in the driver’s seat by the time he led deputies on a high-speed chase across the river, according to a warrant. The chase ended in the 2200 block of Philip Street in New Orleans, where Harris crashed the car into a utility pole.
A video captured what happened next: As Harris backed up slightly, JPSO deputies behind the car opened fire and killed him. Blouin suffered minor injuries from shattered glass.
The Sheriff’s Office alleged that Blouin had knowingly helped her boyfriend escape from the mall, and she was charged in February 2017 with being an accessory to aggravated assault with a firearm, a felony.
Activists claimed that Blouin’s arrest and charging were retribution for her speaking out to the media against the fatal shooting of her boyfriend.
The day after she was charged, Blouin filed a lawsuit against then-Sheriff Newell Normand and the deputies who killed Harris. She alleged the deputies had used unreasonable force in shooting at Harris and her.
The civil lawsuit was essentially put on hold as Blouin dealt with the criminal charges against her. Blouin’s lawyer in both cases, Gary Bizal, said the guilty plea should allow the civil case to proceed.
The Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office amended the charge against Blouin to a misdemeanor and did not object as she entered what is known as an Alford plea, in which a defendant still asserts their innocence but acknowledges that the state would have enough evidence to convict them at trial.
The District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
Judge Nancy Miller of 24th Judicial District Court handed Blouin a deferred sentence and 12 months of probation.
“It eliminated all risk,” Bizal said of the criminal case’s resolution. “Any conviction wouldn’t have affected the civil case regardless, but she didn’t want to risk the possibility, even though we think we would have gotten an acquittal. This eliminated all risk for her, and allowed her to still state that she hadn’t really done anything wrong.”← Blog