Just days after District Attorney Mike Harson told The Advocate he had appointed an assistant district attorney to look into whether some people cited for OWI had actually performed their community service work, sources tell The Independent that assistant has subpoenaed individuals to appear for questioning.
Sources close to the ongoing federal investigation into Harson’s handling of OWI cases — in particular the pretrial diversion program and expungement process — tell The Independent some in the DA's office do indeed have doubts about how cases were prosecuted. Our sources would not say who is being called in for questioning.
One source says a number of the cases being scrutinized were handled by private investigator Robert Williamson. While attorneys typically are retained for OWI cases, Williamson for some time had been working as a paid consultant for those charged with this crime. In essence, those facing OWI prosecution were opting to hire Williamson, rather than an attorney, to handle their cases.
Williamson's involvement appears to be at least part of the FBI's focus.
The FBI probe into Harson’s handling of OWI cases came to light Feb. 27, when federal agents paid a visit to Williamson’s Arnould Boulevard home, the same day they were at the district attorney’s office sifting through the desks and files of Barna Haynes, Harson’s longtime office administrator, and ADA Gregory Williams. Haynes was put on unpaid administrative leave by Harson two weeks after the FBI came calling.
Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret would not comment Wednesday on whether his personnel had been asked by the DA's office to process the subpoenas.
Perret did confirm earlier this week that the FBI searched two computer servers on the third floor of the courthouse the weekend of April 14. That search was first reported Saturday, April 21, by The Advocate. The DA’s office has two servers on the clerk of court’s network, according to Perret. “I can confirm that they were there and that’s what they were looking at,” Perret told The Independent.
In that same Saturday Advocate story, Harson said he had assigned an ADA to investigate whether community service hours listed as being performed by some of those charged with OWI were actually worked. This morning Harson identified Keith Stutes as the assistant district attorney who has been looking into the community service issue on some OWI cases, but Harson said he did not know whether anyone had been subpoenaed. “I’m not aware of that,” he said. “It could be part of what Keith’s doing. He could have issued, possibly, some DA subpoenas. I don’t know for a fact if he did.”
Harson said it would not be unusual for him to be unaware of such action taken by one of his assistants. “He’s handling it on behalf of the office,” the DA said. “I’m not looking over his shoulder every step he takes.”
Harson did confirm to The Advocate that the internal investigation would be centered on potentially fraudulent community service hours submitted by at least two people in connection with their DWI convictions. At least one of those cases was taken by the FBI during its first search, he told the paper, which noted:
Both individuals in question secured plea deals from the District Attorney’s Office that sped up the judicial process and allowed them to complete their probation requirements, such as community service, payment of fines and court costs, and substance abuse and driver improvement courses, prior to pleading in court, according to court records.
Since their probation conditions had already been met, both were given suspended sentences and their probationary periods were either shortened or eliminated entirely, according to court records.
For their community service hours, both individuals submitted paperwork signed by Elaine Crump on behalf of Acadiana Outreach Center for community service hours that were completed after Crump had been fired from the agency.
Jill Meaux, executive director of the Outreach Center, confirmed that Crump was not employed at the center during the dates listed on both letters.
The Advocate found at least 16 OWI cases where community service paperwork was submitted by Crump on behalf of AOC: two for work completed after she was terminated and another for hours worked nearly nine months before the person was arrested on the OWI charge. Read The Advocate story here.
Reached by phone about noon today, Stutes said he was busy and would have to return The Independent’s call.
On the matter of the ongoing federal investigation of his office, Harson said he continues to cooperate fully with the feds.
It’s unclear, however, how the feds are reacting to the DA looking into the very cases it is likely scrutinizing. An FBI spokeswoman in New Orleans could not be reached for comment this morning.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)