Through a public records request, The Advocate found that District Attorney Mike Harson’s office took over the prosecution of dozens of OWI cases typically handled by the city prosecutor.
Through a public records request, The Advocate found that District Attorney Mike Harson’s office, which is under investigation by the feds, took over dozens of OWI cases typically handled by the city prosecutor.
The newspaper's investigation, which looked at misdemeanor OWI cases over the past three years, found that Harson's office made specific requests to take over the cases, often times before they ever made their way to the city prosecutor:
In 2009-11, the District Attorney’s Office requested 86 DWI cases, 55 of which were requested directly from the Lafayette Police Department, which documented each request in a log that included the offender’s name and whom the file was sent to within the DA’s office.
The logs show that 28 of the files, 26 in 2011 alone, were sent to the initials B.H., or Barna Haynes, Harson’s longtime office administrator. Haynes is on unpaid administrative leave.
The Independent confirmed, through sources familiar with the FBI’s probe into Harson’s handling of OWI cases, that Haynes’ office was searched by the feds on Feb. 27. That same day, the FBI served a search warrant on the residence of local private eye Robert Williamson, a regular among the courthouse crowd known to offer some type of “consulting services” to those charged with OWI. Alleged OWI offenders who seek to enter the pretrial diversion program or have their records expunged, two programs sources say the feds are looking into, sometimes do not hire an attorney. Some would hire Williamson instead.
Read more about Williamson's checkered past in this Independent story.
Harson told The Advocate that Haynes has a variety of duties, some of which included helping to pull and prepare pretrial diversion cases and cases involving Article 894 pleas, a state law that allows a misdemeanor conviction to be set aside as if it were an acquittal after a defendant completes his or her probation.
Haynes is married to City Prosecutor Gary Haynes. The DA does have discretion on which cases his office handles, and which cases remain with the city prosecutor.
The Advocate’s Friday story is a follow-up to its Wednesday report that a 2011 OWI case involving a former Lafayette Parish sheriff’s deputy is likely among the case files the FBI confiscated Feb. 27.:
On Aug. 12, 2011, State Police arrested former Deputy Robert A. Lawrence on counts of first-offense DWI, careless operation and hit-and-run driving stemming from a crash that left the other driver injured, said Trooper Stephen Hammons, spokesman for State Police.
Lawrence’s blood-alcohol content registered 0.153, nearly twice the legal limit, according to his citation.
A review of Lawrence’s case at the Lafayette Parish Courthouse revealed a number of potential issues, including the fact that his community service paperwork from Acadiana Outreach Center’s Recovery Center was signed by an employee who had been fired from the agency prior to Lawrence’s community service being completed.
One month after his arrest, Lawrence — who had been fired by the Sheriff’s Office Nov. 5, 2010, for violating departmental policies stemming from an Oct. 23, 2010, party at his home — appeared in court on the Aug. 12 DWI case without an attorney before 15th Judicial District Judge Edward D. Rubin.
Lawrence entered a plea of no contest to a misdemeanor first-offense DWI under Article 894, a state law that allows a conviction to be set aside and the prosecution dismissed after the defendant’s probation ends.
Court records indicate Lawrence’s probation was terminated before it ever began because his plea was taken under what Harson calls an “immediate 894.”
It’s not clear whether Williamson was involved in that case. Read The Advocate’s Wednesday story here.
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.