Thursday, May 10, 2007

Attorney gets copy of Hosanna suspect’s confession

Attorney gets copy of suspect’s confession

Advocate Florida parishes bureau
Published: May 10, 2007 - Page: 4b

AMITE — Prosecutors have turned over a videotaped confession by Austin “Trey” Bernard III — one of seven people accused in the Hosanna Church of Ponchatoula child-rape case — to Bernard’s defense attorney, according to court officials and court documents.

Defense Attorney Al Benzabet told 21st Judicial District Court Judge Doug Hughes in a pre-trial hearing Wednesday he received the videotaped statement made by Bernard, 38, who is accused of one count of aggravated rape.

After the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Don Wall said that for more than a year he sifted through a voluminous amount of evidence before he could complete this phase of the prosecution.

Bernard’s trial is scheduled Aug. 27.

Trial dates for the other six defendants, indicted for aggravated rape and other sexual crimes, have not been set.

Bernard’s pending trial comes more than two years after fellow church member and pastor Louis D. Lamonica, 47, allegedly walked into the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and confessed to raping three children as part of an occult ritual.

Following Lamonica’s arrest, eight other members of the now-defunct church were arrested; two of whom have not been charged by the District Attorney’s Office.

Bernard confessed to the crime in that taped statement, according to written reports from the Sheriff’s Office filed in the court record.

Benzabet told the judge he plans to file motions to suppress evidence at the next hearing, set for Aug. 14.

Bernard, who was released from the Tangipahoa Parish Jail on Nov. 22, 2006, in lieu of a $50,000 bond, is being monitored by an electronic-tracking device, court records show.

He had been given permission by the court to go to Florida, the minutes of a Feb. 12 court hearing indicate.

Bernard was present in court Wednesday, dressed in khaki slacks, tie and a blue sports coat.

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