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|Coenen to retire in March|
After nearly three decades at his post, 5th Judicial District Attorney Billy Coenen will resign from the position in March.
Coenen said March 1 would be his last day as district attorney for the 5th Judicial District, which covers Franklin, Richland and West Carroll parishes. He said he considered serving out the rest of his term, but discussions with his family helped convince him to make the move early.
"I have always been someone who put family first," Coenen said. "My wife and family have been on me for a while to get out and so I felt this was the opportune time."
First Assistant District Attorney John M. "Mack" Lancaster is expected to complete the rest of Coenen's six-year term as district attorney, which expires in 2014.
"In 2011, I will have served 35 years as prosecutor, 27 as district attorney," Coenen said. "It's time for me to retire, and I look forward to spending more time with my wife, six children and five grandchildren."
Serving as district attorney was often taxing, Coenen said, and over the years he says he contended with death threats and was forced to move his family out of state for a while out of concern for their safety. For a time, he says he was escorted to court by armed guards. Coenen would not discuss particulars of the threats that he and his family received, but he said, "A lot of things happened in these 35 years."
Coenen was first elected district attorney in 1984, after serving eight years as assistant district attorney. Coenen was re-elected four times with no opposition.
Coenen's tenure as district attorney was not without controversy, including a 2008 indictment by a federal grand jury in Shreveport on charges stemming from a land deal at Poverty Point in Richland Parish. Coenen was exonerated two years later when charges were dismissed in light of U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared unconstitutional part of a federal statute the U.S. Attorney's office utilized in indicting Coenen and his two codefendants — Mike Thompson, brother of state Sen. Francis Thompson, and Monroe businessman Terry Denmon.
Coenen said it would not be easy to leave a job he has loved. He credited local sheriffs, chiefs of police, judges, clerks of court and employees in the parishes for which he served for making his time as district attorney a success.
He said he will continue to practice law at his office in Rayville and plans to spend time doing missionary work for his church, including a trip to Haiti.
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