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Kenner man with 32 marijuana plants, 17 guns, imprisoned for 15 years
Paul Purpura, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
A Kenner man who was found to have marijuana plants and an arsenal of weapons in his home has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. David Hart, 34, pleaded guilty Monday to marijuana cultivation, being a felon in possession of a gun, use of a gun with a dangerous controlled substance and possessing body armor.
Acting on an anonymous tip, Kenner Police Department detectives on June 11 went to Hart's home at 127 Milsaps Place in the University City neighborhood. When Hart's girlfriend, Jacqueline Hernandez, answered the door, the detectives said, they could smell burning marijuana inside.
The detectives said Hernandez became visibly nervous and told them that her boyfriend was growing marijuana in her home, according to the arrest affidavit. She let them search her home, detectives said.
Inside, the detective saw marijuana plants in jars, marijuana cigarettes and numerous guns on a coffee table, according to the report. They also found harvested marijuana.
All told, the detectives seized 32 marijuana plants growing indoors and in the back yard and 17 guns, including four assault rifles, two shotguns and pistols. They said they also said they found military-style body armor and a Kevlar helmet, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Hart initially told the detectives that the marijuana plants were his but that the guns belonged to his girlfriend. He later recanted it, telling the police the guns, too, were his.
He was barred from possessing firearms, because of a 2002 conviction in Livingston Parish for assault by drive-by shooting, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison.
His attorney, Jim Williams, argued that the felon with a firearm charge should have been tossed out, on grounds that the law, Revised Statute 14:95.1, is unconstitutional. The Louisiana Supreme Court was asked to weigh in on the law last year, after a New Orleans judge declared the law unconstitutional in light of a constitutional amendment making gun ownership a fundamental right.
Judge Scott Schlegel of the 24th Judicial District Court turned down Williams' request. But Hart's guilty plea to the firearm charge was done with the provision that he may appeal Schlegel's pretrial ruling. In general, people who plead guilty to crimes give up trial and appeals rights.
Schlegel sentenced Hart to 15 years in prison for the felon with a firearm charge, 15 years for the cultivation charge, five years for the firearm with controlled substances charge and two years for the body armor charge. He ran the sentences concurrently.
Court records do not reflect whether prosecutors will charge Hernandez, Hart's girlfriend, with a crime.