No indictment for mayor
Sorrento Mayor Brenda Melancon will not be indicted for her involvement in a motorcycle wreck at the 2007 La Boucherie Festival in which a 41-year-old Prairieville motorcyclist was killed.
An Ascension Parish grand jury returned a no true bill in the case Monday at the courthouse in Gonzales.
The Oct. 14 accident occurred when Melancon pulled out of an Ascension Civic Center driveway in her Pontiac Bonneville and into the path of Harley Davidson motorcycle traveling on Hwy. 61.
The driver of the motorcycle, James “Jim” Pickholtz, was pronounced dead at the scene and his wife Amy transported by an Air Med helicopter and hospitalized with serious injuries.
Melancon was booked into the parish jail and charged with negligent homicide, negligent injuring and failure to yield from the driveway while attempting to turn left on the highway. A State Police toxicologist report established that alcohol was not a factor in the wreck.
“It was a terrible accident and I’m very sorry,” Melancon said in statement to the Weekly Citizen Tuesday. “I’m glad that it’s over.”
Melancon said she voluntarily testified before the grand jury, saying that she stopped, looked both ways, then pulled out and “was immediately impacted.”
Melancon was taken through the back gates at the courthouse by her attorney, Alan Robert, in order to avoid media attention during the hearing.
“I did give my side (to the jury),” Melancon said.
Robert said, “I believe justice was done in this very unfortunate accident.”
He praised the different law enforcement agencies involved in the accident, including State Police, Sorrento Police and the court system.
Assistant Attorney General Dana Cummings said obstruction on Hwy. 61 from trees, bushes and signs blocked Melancon’s view, making it practically “impossible” to see the motorcyclist at the time of the accident.
The high profile case was early on transferred from the office of the 23rd Judicial District to the state Attorney General in order to prevent potential conflicts of interest.
Amy Pickholtz called the grand jury’s decision “absolutely devastating.”
She said she believes Melancon is “culpable” and “responsible for the death of my husband and permanently disabling me.”
Pickholtz, who serves as Volunteer Director of the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Motorcycle Awareness Campaign, said Louisiana law does not provide for a lesser charge of negligence other than gross negligence.
She said she would campaign to have legislation enacted that would provide for a lesser criminal charge.”
“That is the law that we need to have in Louisiana,” she said.
A lesser charge of ordinary negligent homicide would give victims more opportunity for recourse in criminal court, according to Pickholtz.
Currently unemployed, Pickholtz has two kids aged 3 and 14, and ongoing medical bills.
“I got a small settlement, I still have to find a way to get money into my house,” she said.
Melancon is a two-time mayor of Sorrento, who announced earlier that she would not seek reelection for a third term in the April 4 election.
Melancon said she had the obstructions at the accident site cleared away after the accident.
Also testifying before the grand jury was officer Sorrento Police officer Billy Ballard who was at the scene of the accident.