A convicted drug dealer received 15 years in prison this week for possession of a gun following an April 2013 foot chase in the B.W. Cooper area of Central City, and his co-defendant was sentenced to seven years after agreeing to testify in the same case, New Orleans prosecutors said.
Jamal “Mal” Smith, 25, pleaded guilty to the gun charge Tuesday and received 15 years, and Robert Steward, 20, received seven in connections with their arrests on Erato Street last year, according to the district attorney’s office. For details, see the full news release below:
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office convicted Jamal Smith (AKA “Mal”), 25 and Robert Steward, 20 of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Tuesday morning, both defendants pled guilty-as-charged in section “J” of Criminal District Court.
On April 13, 2013, police responded to a call from a concerned citizen that Smith was armed with a handgun in the 3300 block of Erato Street. The citizen described the clothing that Smith was wearing. Three marked units responded to the scene where they found Smith accompanied by Steward.
Both defendants attempted to flee in opposite directions. Smith was apprehended after jumping several fences and discarding a handgun with an extended magazine. Steward attempted to flee through a gap in an iron fence but was quickly apprehended when a handgun in his waistband got caught in the fence.
Steward has a prior felony conviction for aggravated battery for which he received a one year prison sentence. After agreeing to testify against his codefendant in this case, the DA’s office offered to allow him to plead guilty in return for a seven year sentence.
Smith, who has multiple prior felony narcotics convictions, was convicted of attempted possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in 2012 and received a six year sentence. On account of his prior firearm’s conviction, the District Attorney’s office demanded that Smith receive a fifteen year sentence.
Assistant District Attorneys Sarah Dawkins and Corey Moll prosecuted the case.
In response to these convictions, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro stated, “The proliferation of illegal firearms in the hands of convicted felons is fueling the rate of violent crime in this city. It is a top priority of my office to put behind bars those convicted felons who will not refrain from illegally carrying guns on the streets of our city.”
[Update] Lindsey Hortenstine, a spokeswoman for the Orleans Parish Public Defenders’s office, said Steward never actually testified against Smith because the case never went to trial.
“His plea agreement was to testify as to his own involvement, and that they were both there, but nothing incriminating against Mr. Smith,” Hortenstine said. “He in fact never actually testified.”
According to court records, Smith was being held at the St. Charles Parish jail in early April. Steward remains at the Orleans Parish Prison, records there show.