UPDATE: District Attorney Mike Harson tells The Independent that Barna Haynes is on unpaid leave and it is "undetermined" when she will return to work at Harson's office.
[Editor's Note: This story has been altered to update the employment status of Barna Haynes, the longtime office manager of District Attorney Mike Harson.]
Barna Haynes and Robert Williamson, the two people named by Independent sources as the targets of a federal investigation into 15th Judicial District Attorney Mike Harson’s office, share a key connection in the FBI’s probe of how Harson’s office is handling OWI prosecutions.
As The Independent reported March 7, Williamson is a licensed private investigator who works as a consultant for OWI offenders and Barna Haynes, as Harson’s office administrator, schedules meetings between Harson and those who wish to be admitted into the OWI pretrial diversion program or have their charges expunged from their records.
Also reported by The Ind in this week’s “The Not So Secret Cajun Man” is Williamson’s long and bizarre history with federal courts in Louisiana: In 1989, Williamson’s wife, Sonya, claimed she was electrocuted while turning off a light in the family’s hotel room at the Haynes Best Western in Alexandria, where the family had been living for more than a month (the name of the hotel appears to be coincidental, unrelated to Barna Haynes). The Williamsons claimed in a subsequent lawsuit against the hotel that the electrocution stemmed from a water leak in the room’s ceiling and caused Sonya to become quadriplegic ... In the end, the jury sided with the insurance company and ruled that the electrocution was staged, largely based on the couple’s history of fraudulent insurance activity. But the Williamsons’ appeals and the countersuits filed by the insurance company kept the case tied up in federal court for more than a decade.
The Ind has since learned that City Prosecutor Gary Haynes, husband of Barna Haynes, represented the Williamsons in a 2004 appeal related to the electrocution case. The Williamson and Gary Haynes connection also resurfaces in 2005, when Gary Haynes signed on as the attorney for a child custody case involving local businessman Bradley Griffith.
According to court documents, District Judge David Blanchet identifies Williamson as a private investigator who accompanied Griffith to his child’s day care center at the height of the custody dispute. The judge wrote in the ruling:
“Brad ... sabotaged the situation by involving a private investigator, Robert Williamson, who appeared at the day care with him on several occasions and who made inquiries concerning the owners of the day care [to a neighboring business owner] ... This resulted in the child being dismissed from the day care center by the center’s owners.”
Gary Haynes is the listed attorney for the 2005 case, Bradley Griffith vs. Resa Latiolais, according to court documents. “I was not the lead attorney and assisted for a brief time in that case," Gary Haynes said in a brief phone interview with The Independent Monday. “And that’s all I can say. Other than that I can’t really comment on Robert Williamson."
But Gary Haynes' statement about his role in the Griffith case is not entirely accurate, according to Latiolais' attorney, Julie Vaughn Felder. "He was not the lead lawyer, but he showed up at the majority of depositions and hearings," she says. "He filed a motion to withdraw on the eve of the last day of trial." The suit was filed in October 2005, and the first day of trial was in August 2006. Haynes' motion to withdraw was filed Jan. 27, 2008, and the trial ended the next day.
"It was a 12-day trial that took 17 months," Felder says.
The Independent submitted a public records request to Harson's office Friday morning to verify the employment status of Barna Haynes. Harson told The Daily Advertiser Friday afternoon that Barna has been on upaid leave since Monday. He responded three days later to The Ind's public records request via a March 20 fax that says it is "undetermined" when Barna Haynes will return to work. Her annual salary, according to Harson, is $62,545.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The new tool for breast cancer detection
A new tool to beat runner’s pain
Gaza truce unravels; Cantor exits early; immigration bill fails and more national and international news for Friday, August 1, 2014.
The City-Parish Council on Tuesday will be asked to sign off on an agreement between UL Lafayette and Lafayette Consolidated Government that would expand mass transit opportunities for UL students by adding five additional buses to its shuttle run between Cajun Field and campus.
Louisiana's high school seniors are making increased strides on Advanced Placement exams.
The Alabama game is sold out but tickets for all other homes games can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net.
Among the one-percenters nationally, Louisiana's fattest cat is a relative pauper.
The Republican governor sent a letter Thursday to the president, saying placement of the children in Louisiana could have "potential negative ramifications."
Many laws are minor, though some impact health care options, change educational programs and reach into people's everyday activities.
Responding to Tuesday’s federal appeals court decision to save Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, Esquire magazine profiles the unique story behind one of the doctors working at the clinic in Jackson.
In reacting to the recently resurrected allegations of sexual abuse among local clergy, is the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette maintaining its old stance of protecting their own?
Louisiana's annual state sales tax holiday is Friday and Saturday.
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.