Accessory in Ku Klux Klan killing admits guilt, gets one-year sentence

The Times-Picayune/June 25, 2009

A member of a Bogalusa Ku Klux Klan group was sentenced Thursday to a year in prison after she pleaded guilty to being an accessory in the killing of an Oklahoma woman who reportedly tried to back out of a KKK initiation last year in St. Tammany Parish.

Almost timid, Danielle Jones, 24, quietly admitted giving authorities false information immediately after the murder of Klan recruit Cynthia Lynch, 43, who was shot to death Nov. 9 in a remote part of northeastern St. Tammany. Jones later acknowledged witnessing the shooting, according to the factual basis she admitted to during her plea at the parish courthouse in Covington.

Raymond "Chuck" Foster, the alleged imperial wizard of the Bogalusa Sons of Dixie Knights, is charged with second-degree murder in Lynch's death. He remains in jail while awaiting trial.

Authorities have said Lynch was killed after she told Foster, 44, that she wanted to return home to Oklahoma.

State Judge Reginald "Reggie" Badeaux accepted Jones's plea and sentenced her to the year of incarceration with credit for time served. In jail since her Nov. 11 arrest, Jones can qualify for immediate release due to good behavior. Her attorney, Mark Jolissaint, said that due to paperwork she likely wouldn't be released for the next few days.

Jones made the guilty plea under the 1970 U.S. Supreme Court decision, North Carolina vs. Alford, a ruling that lets a defendant plead guilty if they thinks it's in their best interest, but not admit involvement in the crime. Jolissaint maintained that Jones was innocent.

Assistant District Attorney Julie Knight prosecuted the case. Accessory after the fact carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $500 fine.

Jones initially told authorities that she knew nothing about a dead body or the possible shooter. She said she'd seen Lynch and Foster arguing, that they'd "fought and cursed and had problems," but that the "only gunshots she had heard were from people hunting outside," Knight said, reading the factual basis.

After authorities interviewed other alleged Sons of Dixie members, it became apparent that Jones was present during the shooting, Knight said.

In November, seven alleged Sons of Dixie members, all from the Bogalusa area, were booked on obstruction of justice charges, but the grand jury only indicted Shane Foster, 21, and Frank Stafford, 21, on those charges. The panel indicted Jones on the lesser accessory after the fact charge, and dropped all charges against the four others who had been arrested on obstruction charges.

On April 30, Stafford, 21, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and Badeaux sentenced him to four years in prison. Obstruction of justice carries a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

On April 21, Badeaux found Shane Foster incompetent to stand trial. Foster, 21, who is Chuck Foster's son, was ordered to get tutoring from a court-appointed forensic coordinator in the St. Tammany Parish jail in an effort to restore his competency and make him ready for trial.

Shane Foster does not have a factual understanding of the law or its procedures, according to expert testimony. He is scheduled for an August 8 hearing, when Badeaux would reassess his mental competency.

Shane Foster and Stafford allegedly drove to a gas station near Bogalusa and asked a clerk how they could get bloodstains out of their clothes, part of an attempt to cover up the crime. Authorities have said that cover-up included digging a bullet out of Lynch's body, burning her possessions and dumping her body into a ditch on Lock No. 3 Road near Sun, St. Tammany sheriff's officials said.

Chuck Foster's next scheduled hearing on the second-degree murder charge is scheduled for July 27 in front of state Judge Peter Garcia, but people familiar with the case speculate that he will not go to trial for at least several more months.

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