Chad Pitre raises his arm as he recites his oath of office administered by State Supreme Court Jusitice Jimmy Genovese on Monday at the St. Landry Parish Courthouse. From left, Genovese, Joy Pitre, Chad Pitre, and Donald Pitre. Not shown, but holding the Bible is Brenda King, Chad Pitre’s fiancée. Joy and Donald Pitre are the new district attorney’s parents. (Photos by Harlan Kirgan)
Pitre is new district attorney
Newly elected district attorney Chad Pitre recited his oath of office delivered by Supreme Court Justice Jimmy Genovese in a packed second-floor courtroom on Monday.
His voice breaking when referring to the family and friends present, Pitre said, “I’m so lucky and so blessed to have you in my life. Thank you all. Thank you all.”
Political newcomer Pitre won election with 52% of the 39,138 votes cast in the Nov. 3 election to defeat incumbent Charles Cravins.
Cravins was appointed district attorney by Earl Taylor, who retired in February 2020 after 23 years in office.
The candidates combined raised about $400,000 during the election.
“I pledge honesty, I pledge integrity, I pledge transparency and I pledge the highest level of professionalism,” he said.
A change in directions at the district attorney’s office had begun, he said.
“You the citizens of St. Landry Parish you deserve accountability, you deserve the very best criminal justice system there is and you deserve and should expect that your elected officials will do all that they can do to keep you and your family safe and I intend to do just that,” he said.
Pitre said he and his administration have hit the ground running.
“In the past couple of weeks we’ve been working with the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office. We are trying to get at least 77 pre-trial detainees to trial as soon as possible It is costing the parish $80,000 a month to house these prisoners out of the parish. We’ve also directed and redirected needed resources to help alleviate that huge backlog of felony cases that plague St. Landry Parish,” he said.
The backlog of cases numbers about 6,500.
Noting the overflow crowd in the courtroom for the inauguration ceremony, Pitre said it showed “they are ready for change at the St. Landry Parish DA’s office.”
Pitre said he wasn’t surprised at his election. “I just thought the numbers were favorable,” he said after the ceremony.
“I ran as a Republican. I’m the first Republican elected St. Landry Parish district attorney. Donald Trump was on the ballot. At the same time St. Landry Parish is a red parish and the statistics, the research we did showed that we had more than a better shot at winning and that’s what happened. I knew it was going to be close though,” he said.
Retired District Judge Ellis Daigle is the chief administrator in the office, he said. Daigle will also lead the felony division.
About 90% of the clerical staff in the office has been retained, he said.
Daigle, of Eunice, said, “We haven’t actually been in the office until today.”
One of the first priorities will be to move on about 30 murder cases, he said.
Complicating clearing cases is a state Supreme Court order that halts jury trials until March, Daigle said.
Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said, “The changeover is going to be a big help. We are going to get rid of some cases. We are going to work with the new district attorney and his staff. I’ve already assigned one person to work at his office to help get rid of some of the old cases that we have and that is something that I’ve asked the old administration to do with me for many years. Just didn’t get the help we needed. So, right now, I’m happy about our opportunity to reduce the court docket.”
Guidroz added, “I’m not going to throw any stones at anybody. We are going to do our job. The district attorney is going to do his and we are going to be fine.”
The guest speaker for the ceremony was State Attorney General Jeff Landry who said Pitre had come from humble beginnings.
Pitre said he and Landry attended the police academy together about 30 years ago.
Pitre has served as a special assistant attorney general with Attorney General Jeff Landry since 2016.
Pitre served from 1992 to 1996 as a wildlife enforcement agent for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Pitre served as a law clerk with Genovese.