First LA Prisoner Released for Invoking New Law Benefiting Informants

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A widely used Louisiana law prosecutors reserve for chronic criminals sent John Ballay to prison for life. A little-known law prosecutors now have in their toolbox has set him free, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Ballay, 53, is the first person in the state to have his prison sentence modified under a year-old Louisiana law that was modeled after a federal statute and designed to encourage inmates to become informants in criminal investigations. In exchange for providing “substantial assistance,” as the law requires, Louisiana prosecutors can ask judges to reduce inmates’ sentences. The trade-off is to be labeled a snitch. For Ballay, whose life sentence was reduced to 15 years, looking over his shoulder will be a way of life when word of his deeds gets out with the publication of his story.

“Nobody at the prison knows,” said Ballay “They’re going to know. They’re going to figure it out. It’s going to hit the newspaper. It’s going to be all over the state. The Angolite (prison magazine) is going to print it. And you know what? I just don’t care,” he said. “Because, for me, it’s my way of not slipping back. See, I can never go back to being a gangster. I’m stuck. I got to be an honest man.” He walked out a free man Sept. 23, after Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. urged a judge to resentence him because of the help he provided in several investigations, ranging from helping prosecutors convict a suspected serial killer to breaking up a drug ring in the Angola prison.

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