Agricultural Commissioner Bob Odom, indicted on charges of conspiracy, theft, bribery and money laundering, had his case tossed out by 19th District Judge Donald Johnson. This is not the first time Johnson has cast a favorable ruling for Odom; last November, Johnson threw out the prosecution's case, only to have it predictably overruled by the Louisiana Supreme Court. As justice is supposed to serve the people ' and not Louisiana's elected officials ' Johnson's inane rulings thankfully did not persuade those elected to our highest bench.

Odom was re-elected in 2003 to his seventh consecutive term as agricultural commissioner and has devolved into both a fossil of state politics and a contemporary Boss Tweed since his first election in 1980. Odom has effectively used a traditionally quiet statewide office to entrench himself within Louisiana's powerful political game. While reports of his authoritative behavior regarding his employees have been widely reported ' and despite admitting employees run personal errands and buy gifts for him on state money ' Odom has remained free from anything resembling serious punishment.

This may be due to the numerous friends he has created in his time in office. Odom's current lawyer, Karl Koch, hosted a 2004 fund raiser to eliminate Johnson's campaign debt, while his firm contributed funds for Johnson's campaign. This might explain why, after transferring divisions twice, Johnson was determined to keep Odom's case under his jurisdiction.

The most ridiculous premise behind this entire court case is the fact that it is all being paid for on the taxpayer's dime. The Advocate reports that taxpayers could pay more than $400,000 in legal fees, while the public prosecution is similarly being funded by the state. Louisiana citizens should be outraged. Odom's defense delayed and postponed the trials until Judge Johnson threw the case out.

One hopes the recent announcement of Rep. Mike Strain to compete for agricultural commissioner is a sign that Louisiana is serious about reformation. It's absurd that a man surrounded by controversy and indicted on multiple charges should remain in office for an eighth consecutive term. With recent term limit mandates, we are beginning to hack away at the roots of Louisiana's corruption that have grown deep over the years. It is time for us to reform from within, and we must begin with Bob Odom.

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