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December 22, 2023

Covington Man Found Guilty of Molestation and Sexual Battery of a Child Under Age 13

Interim District Attorney Collin Sims reports that on Thursday (December 21, 2023), following a four-
day trial, a jury found Daniel Lascari, age 41 and of Covington, guilty of molestation and sexual battery of a juvenile under the age of 13. Following the verdict, Sims stated, “This case is a tremendous example of this office’s commitment to vigorously prosecute these types of cases and our dedicated prosecutors’ relentless pursuit of justice in the face of obstacles encountered during the prosecution of this child’s sexual abuser. Additionally, it is essential to the successful prosecution of these cases the dedication shown in this case by teachers, counselors, law enforcement officers, medical professionals, and our partners at the Children’s Advocacy Center.” The case was presided over by District Judge Scott Gardner.

In March of 2018, the then 8-year-old victim told her teacher that when she went to the bathroom, she noticed she was bleeding. The teacher brought her to the counselor’s office. The victim then reported to the counselor that she might be “starting her period” or that it could be because her mother’s fiancĂ© “got carried away last night.” She went on to describe to the counselor what the man had been doing to her for approximately 8 months. School officials immediately notified law enforcement of the situation and an investigation commenced. During the course of the investigation, the victim disclosed details to trained personnel with the Department of Children and Family Services, Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Advocacy Center’s Hope House. She described how her mother’s fiancĂ© would come into her bedroom at night, move her from a top bunk to a bottom bunk and rub peppermint lotion all over her body, including inside her private area. While he was doing this, he told her “this is the way people relax.” She was able to describe in detail how he moved his fingers and how he’d once made her massage his private part.

At trial, the State called the victim’s teacher and the counselor as witnesses. They testified that the victim was a bright and empathetic student but that she suffered from persistent test anxiety. They said she’d sit in her chair during test time and pull out her hair.

The mother of the victim testified how she was reluctant to have the victim testify because she was concerned about her daughter. Following the disclosure, she relocated with her daughter to another state. She described in painful detail the toll that the abuse took on the victim. She told the jury how the victim spent over a year in counseling and would likely need further treatment. Despite the mother’s reservations, she said that she relented when the victim insisted she was finally ready to confront her abuser in court. The victim, who testified about the sexual abuse, also described for the jury that the defendant on one occasion had punched her in the ribs because he thought she was stretching out a shirt. She testified that he’d threatened to “kill [her] and bury [her] body in the back yard.”

Prosecutors presented various items into evidence during the course of the trial: The victim’s panties with the blood stains from the day of her initial disclosure, a bottle of peppermint lotion that police found in the victim’s bed along with a piece of tissue that had blood on it. A DNA expert testified that the blood on the panties was the victim’s and that there was DNA consistent with the defendant found on the inside crotch portion of the victim’s panties. The bloody tissue found in the victim’s room also contained DNA material consistent with the defendant’s DNA profile.

The defendant, carrying a Bible with him to the stand, offered testimony that the jury, as indicated by its verdict, found to be unworthy of belief.

On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Authement confronted the defendant with an alias the defendant had adopted to create, sell and install his artwork in St. Tammany, Metairie, and Baton Rouge. Following his release on bond shortly after his arrest in 2018 and while awaiting trial for sexually abusing a minor, the defendant concealed his true identity by using the alias “Dan Matisse” to gain entry into unsuspecting homes to install his artwork.

ADA Authement had the defendant read to the jury text messages he had previously sent to the victim’s mother. One notable message referenced the incontinence that had been plaguing the victim as a result of the abuse, “Tell [victim] to sleep in her [bed] if she keeps farting n shitting on my side of the bed, i dont need her dirty ass ruining my nice sheets.”

In her closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Casey Allen told the Jury, “It’s been almost 7 years since this little girl began living with this real-life monster under her bed.” In her rebuttal to the defense argument, ADA Authement fought back at the defendant’s assertion that these charges stemmed from a manipulative 8-year-old child, “you would have to believe this was a massive conspiracy involving a child, her teacher, multiple counselors, doctors, nurses, and laboratory experts. She’s not inventing these things. She lived it and could describe it because she endured it. Give the victim justice and find him guilty as charged.”

The defendant faces 25 - 99 years in prison on each charge when he is sentenced, which is currently scheduled for January 9, 2024.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Elizabeth Authement and Casey Allen. The District Attorney’s Office would like to thank the jury, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, The St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office, Children’s Hospital, the Hope House, the Audrey Hepburn CARE Center, and the District Attorney’s Office of Chattanooga, Tennessee for their assistance in this case.

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