District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office on Thursday (Aug. 17) amended the so-called “revenge porn” charges against New Orleans architect Gerald Billes and his wife to a different offense that carries a stiffer maximum penalty.
Billes, 71, was newly charged with one count of video voyeurism in a superseding bill of information filed in Criminal District Judge Arthur Hunter’s courtroom. His wife Carmen Midence, 41, was charged with two counts of the same offense. Defense attorney Frank DeSalvo entered not guilty pleas to the new charges on behalf of each.
The new felony charge carries a penalty range of one to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both upon conviction. The couple previously faced charges of non-consensual disclosure of private images — dubbed Louisiana’s “revenge porn” law — punishable by the same fine and/or a prison term of up to two years.
The charge was amended after prosecutors determined the date of the alleged offense fell before the “revenge porn” statute was enacted in 2015, said assistant district attorney Christopher Bowman, spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office.
The couple was arrested last Dec. 8, after Billes’ former girlfriend complained to New Orleans police that her ex and his new wife had emailed nude images of her to friends without her knowledge or permission. She also said they had impersonated her on fake social media profiles they created under her name, according to court records.
Police initially booked Billes and Midence each with two counts of online impersonation, two counts of video voyeurism and two counts of non-consensual disclosure of a private image, according to court records.
When Cannizzaro’s office screened the evidence in May, the only charges accepted were counts of non-consensual disclosure of private images — two counts against Midence and one against Billes, whom she married in July 2016.
Billes is the CEO and principal owner of Billes Partners, an architectural firm that has been involved in major development projects including the New Orleans Hilton hotel master plan, Phase II of the Aquarium of the Americas, Concourse C at Louis Armstrong International Airport and the French Market revitalization, according to the firm’s website. Other commercial projects involving Billes’ company include New Orleans’ House of Blues and the Whole Foods grocery stores in Uptown and Mid-City.
Billes also has taught as an associate and adjunct professor of architecture at Tulane University and Southern University, according to his company’s biography.
Only Midence appeared in court Thursday, as DeSalvo said Billes had a medical issue. Hunter issued reciprocal restraining orders to the couple and their accuser, banning contact between the parties. Hunter scheduled a pretrial hearing in the case for Sept. 8, and set a Sept. 29 date to argue motions in the case.… Read the rest