Agent targeted in a civil lawsuit for a wrongful and malicious investigation has been formally charged with obstruction of justice and perjury.
An EPA agent accused of heading a years-long malicious and meritless investigation into a former Church Point oil refinery manager to help facilitate the agent’s extramarital affair has been fired and indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.
The Advocate reports that Agent Keith Phillips, who joined New Orleans FBI agent Ekko Barnhill in a three-year investigation of then Canal Refinery manager Hubert Vidrine, reportedly lied under oath in a 2008 deposition when he denied having a sexual relationship with his joint investigator Barnhill.
Vidrine, an Opelousas resident who was managing Canal Refinery in September 1996 when armed federal agents raided the Church Point business, was indicted on federal environmental charges in 1999. Vidrine’s criminal charges of storing “hazardous waste” stemmed from grand jury testimony by Phillips, Barnhill and another key witness, but the charges against Vidrine were eventually dismissed in 2003 when that key witness was found to be a drug addict who had provided uncorroborated information.
Throughout the entire investigation Agents Phillips and Barnhill were reportedly having an extramarital affair that gave Phillips, who worked out of Dallas, a reason to travel to South Louisiana as often as he did, according to court documents:
During the Nov. 25, 2008, deposition, Phillips allegedly told the attorney he and the FBI special agent were “close friends,” according to the indictment.
“Did you have an affair with her?” the attorney asked.
“No. No. I take offense to you even putting that in the record,” Phillips responded. “I’ve been married 31 years and you don’t stay married 31 years by having extramarital affairs.”
The indictment alleges that between Nov. 25, 2008, and March 2011, Phillips called the special agent on more than one occasion in an attempt to influence her not to disclose the existence of their past extramarital affair, explaining to her that he had testified that their relationship was only professional and a friendship.
If convicted, Phillips faces a possible maximum 10-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine on the obstruction of justice count and a possible maximum 5-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine on the perjury count.
As The Independent reported on July 20, Vidrine sued the federal government in 2007 for wrongful and malicious prosecution. He’s seeking more than $5 million in lost income, lost earning capacity, legal costs to defend prosecution, damage to he and his wife’s reputations, emotional distress, humiliation and loss of consortium.
Vidrine’s civil case went to trial before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in June. According to The Advocate, Phillips’ 20 years of employment with the EPA ended on July 26, a month after Vidrine’s civil suit was heard. Doherty has not yet ruled on the civil lawsuit.
For more on the federal government’s role and how it impacts lives in Acadiana, read The Independent’s July 20 cover story, “CONVICTed.”
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
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.
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.