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.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”