Men charged in newspaper carrier attack plead not guilty

The two Vernon Parish men arrested and charged in the December attack on American Press newspaper carrier Woodie Blanks pleaded not guilty to the charges in court on Tuesday.

Douglas Paul James, 32, and Dillon Matthew James, 24, entered their pleas during arraignment proceedings in the 30th Judicial District Court. The men will now face a jury trial set to begin on May 16. A pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for May 3.
If convicted, the two face a maximum possible sentence of eight years in jail with or without parole
The two are charged with second-degree battery for the Dec. 17 beating of 67 year-old Blanks, who was hand-delivering a newspaper to the door of a customer at the time of the attack.
Blanks said the customer had requested the paper be brought to their front door, a request he said he received often from customers with health or mobility issues and that he thought nothing of leaving his vehicle that early morning to drop off the paper.
Blanks said as he turned to walk back to his vehicle, multiple unknown men removed the keys from his truck and approached him. He said they asked him what he was doing at the property.
“I told them I was delivering the paper, like I had been doing for the past three years. I told them to go ask the man who lived there; that he would tell them who I was. That’s when they blindsided me,” Blanks said.
Blanks said the men hit him in the face as he fell down, and then continued to hit him. It was only when the homeowner called the men off that he was able to get his keys and leave the area.
Blanks immediately went to Rosepine Police to report the incident, and was transported to the Beauregard Health hospital in DeRidder for what authorities called “visible serious injuries.” He was transferred to a Shreveport facility for emergency surgery on both of his eyes. Today, despite multiple surgeries, doctors have told him he may never fully regain his vision.
Douglas and Dillon James were arrested on Dec. 22 and according to Vernon Parish authorities, both men told investigators the attack had been the result of mistaken identity. Sheriff Sam Craft said the men were relatives of the homeowner, and they falsely believed Blanks had been a prowler that was seen on the property days before the attack.
Blanks has asserted that more men were involved in the attack, and Craft has said the investigation into the incident remains ongoing.
After the attack, a GoFundMe account was set up to assist Blanks in his recovery. As of this week, nearly $6,000 has been raised for his benefit.

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