NEW ORLEANS — The suspension of a former New Orleans public defender who pleaded guilty to stalking her boss’s wife will end in December, according to an opinion the Louisiana Supreme Court released Friday.
Trisha Ann Ward had been on interim suspension since early last December, under an agreement with the couple’s attorneys. The court ruled Friday that she should be suspended for a year and day, with the suspension retroactive to that date. One justice dissented from the unsigned majority opinion, saying Ward’s offenses were so serious she should be suspended for two years.
Ward said in an email that she had no comment.
According to details contained in the opinion, Ward became romantically involved with her supervisor’s wife and used a key card she’d been given to get into their property after the wife ended the relationship in October 2013.
In December 2013, she went into the house when she knew they were in New York, and encountered the house-sitter’s fiancee, who reported it to the couple, the opinion said. The opinion also said Ward used the wife’s credit card for $97 in purchases after promising to remove the card number from her Amazon account.
Ward had been hired in 2008 by the public defender’s office, became friends with the wife of the man who had hired her, and sometimes babysat and house-sat for the couple, according to the opinion. Eventually the women’s friendship “became romantic,” the opinion said.
The wife, identified only as J.H., emailed Ward on Oct. 28, 2013, to tell her the relationship was over, but Ward sent repeated emails. The evening of Oct. 29, 2013, she came over to the house, “cursed and called J.H.’s name repeatedly,” let herself into the yard with a magnetic card and entered the house through a door she knew was kept unlocked.
The husband kicked her out, and both he and Ward called police, according to the opinion, which used initials rather than the couple’s names because the Office of Disciplinary Counsel had been granted an order to protect their identities as victims before a hearing on the matter.
She continued to email J.H., who told her not to do so.
After learning about the December 2013 home entry, the couple filed a criminal complaint.
Ward was charged with unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling, a felony, but pleaded guilty to stalking and violating a protective order, both misdemeanors.
Ward had told J.H. the first time she used the card after their breakup and promised to remove it from her Amazon account, but then used it again, the court said.
She said she used the credit card by accident. The state bar’s disciplinary board did not believe her.