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No Prosecution Likely for Louisiana Democratic Party Leader

Senator Karen Carter Peterson

The leader of Louisiana's Democratic Party isn't expected to face prosecution for illegally entering a Baton Rouge casino last month while struggling to control a gambling addiction.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore told news outlets he doesn't think the criminal justice system "needs to be involved in this matter" involving state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson.

"We try not to prosecute cases where people make mistakes and take the appropriate steps to address their action, as opposed to people who don't or who commit violent acts," Moore told The Advocate . "This case doesn't affect public safety."

Peterson, a New Orleans Democrat, was reportedly ejected from L'Auberge Casino and Hotel on Feb. 27 by the Louisiana State Police and given a misdemeanor citation.

After news of the citation became public, Peterson released a statement acknowledging she is a compulsive gambler. She said two years ago she voluntarily put her name on a list of people banned from Louisiana gambling establishments. If someone signed up for the program is found in a casino, staff is obligated to remove the person immediately or the casino faces a hefty fine.

State police are allowed to cite the person with a misdemeanor offense. Anyone who enrolls must stay on the exclusion list from casinos for at least five years. Moore said he's had several conversations with Peterson since the summons was issued. He said Peterson has met with her clergy and sought out counselors.

The district attorney said he'll talk to Peterson again before making a decision about formally dropping the misdemeanor charges, but said he would move to prosecute her only if he discovers something that causes him to view her activities more critically. Peterson is being treated no different from other people who receive the same misdemeanor citation, Moore said.

"She is getting a whole lot more scrutiny than anyone else who has ever gotten one of these," he told Times-Picayune . As a state senator, Peterson sits on the Judiciary B Committee, which scrutinizes gambling laws.

Colleagues said they were shocked to learn Peterson was struggling with gambling, but they didn't think it had interfered with her duties or judgment as a member of the Legislature.