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.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 16, 2014:
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
Chris Williams knows how to pilfer from the public coffers, this time with a back-pay lawsuit filed three years ago against the Lafayette Housing Authority, which netted the former city-parish councilman a cool five figures.
McAllister's office vowed that he intended to stay in office — for now. As for questions about whether he would stand for re-election in November, those were dodged.
The Green Army's Lafayette brigade has announced it will pay a visit Friday morning to Sen. Page Cortez to urge him to vote against Sen. Robert Adley's SB 553, which the group is calling the "Big Oil Bailout Bill of 2014."