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.”
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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
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.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.