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.
City-Parish President Joey Durel is asking the council to sign off on a resolution approving a pair of deals that would lead to razing the seedy Lesspay Motel at Four Corners to build a new police substation as well as transforming nearly a block Downtown where the old federal courthouse building now molders into a mixed-use development.
In 2013, the IRS — already the least popular governmental agency in the country — became the target of intense investigations after it was revealed that they had specifically and improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status from organizations associated with the nascent Tea Party movement.
Improving the running game was "a point of emphasis" during the offseason and the results have manifested themselves in the form of substantially greater production.
Louisiana's health department said Wednesday that its evaluation of the state's Medicaid privatization was on target, despite criticism from the legislative auditor that it lacked key data and contained inconsistencies.
Artificial sweeteners eyed; Scottish independence vote begins; Ford has cancer and more national and international news for Thursday, September 18, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
The feds converge on your office, seizing records on several employees as part of a pay-for-plea investigation. WWYD? If you’re Mike Harson, you give yourself a $12k raise.
It’s football season and after back-to-back winless weekends for the Saints and the Cajuns many citizens are finding it difficult to be civil much less happy. Well, chew on this.
Considering his repeated stays in the local penal system, David Narcisse Jr. should have known that having a semiautomatic shotgun, even one given to him by a friend, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.
A state district judge on Tuesday threw out a last-minute retirement hike lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent, ending a political firestorm over a pension boost passed without public scrutiny on the last day of the legislative session.
The House has passed a bill to increase oversight of veterans' hospitals under construction, following a report that some medical centers take three years longer to complete than estimated and cost an extra $366 million per project.
An obvious follow-up question for any Republican politician who accuses Democrats of being science deniers is one about science, to which Jindal bobbed and weaved like a welterweight champ.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is expected to decide tonight (Tuesday) whether to go along with a proposal City-Parish President Joey Durel made in February’s State of the Parish Address and consolidate taxes for mosquito control and the parish health units into a broader tax program that would also cover animal control.
U.S. District Judge Richard Haik has dismissed Greg Davis’ lawsuit against the LPSB, yet in his ruling, the federal judge doesn’t bite his tongue in pointing out the "threat" being posed by certain board members.
Of all the political offices being contested throughout Lafayette Parish, the race for Broussard’s top police post has literally become one of the most heated.
A state district judge is deciding whether to issue an injunction against the enforcement of a last-minute retirement hike that lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent.
A new website is up for Louisiana's state government employees and retirees to choose their health insurance plans for next year, a choice they must make by October.
That fact that New Orleans led both games in the final 10 seconds of regulation, and lost each by a field goal or less, is of little solace.
The superintendent will make another go at getting a budget passed for the already commenced fiscal year as the LPSB is slated to meet tonight on the eve of the state’s budget adoption deadline.
A person familiar with the situation says New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has a broken hand.
It seeks an investigation into a $100,000 fund transfer from Vitter's federal campaign account to an independent PAC supporting Vitter's 2015 candidacy for governor.
Landrieu has acknowledged that she improperly billed her Senate office for nearly $43,000 in charter costs that should have been paid from her campaign account.
House District 45 Rep. Joel Robideaux is term-limited and running for city-parish president next year, leaving his seat up for grabs come 2015 and at least three likely contenders so far, including ...
When the Browns explained their plans to Brian Hoyer about bringing rookie Johnny Manziel into the game, Cleveland's starting quarterback bit his lip and devised one of his own.
National debate over solitary confinement puts spotlight on Angola inmate’s 35 years in ‘the hole’