Sources with knowledge of the federal investigation involving cases handled by 15th Judicial District Attorney Mike Harson say the FBI last week searched the office of Barna Haynes, Harson’s longtime office administrator. The Independent has learned that on that same Monday night, Feb. 27, the feds also searched the 311 Arnould Boulevard home of Lafayette private investigator Robert Williamson.
Lafayette Police Department spokesman Paul Mouton confirmed to The Independent Wednesday morning that the department was asked to assist the FBI last Monday night at the corner of West Congress Street and Arnould Boulevard. “We were called to provide perimeter security,” Mouton says. “The nature and what they were doing we don’t have knowledge of.”
Hall Jones, supervisor for the Lafayette FBI office, also confirms the search of Williamson's home. "What we were looking for did not pose any danger to the community," Jones says, declining to elaborate on why the search was conducted.
|The FBI probe involving DA Mike Harson's office extended to the Arnould Boulevard home of Lafayette private eye Robert Williamson. The PI's home was searched the same night the FBI served a search warrant on the office of Harson's longtime administrator, Barna Haynes.|
Interviewed briefly at his Arnould Boulevard home late yesterday afternoon, Williamson says that he has hired an attorney but would not identify the attorney. “I don’t have any comment,” he says.
While news that a search warrant had been served on the DA’s office was broken late last week by KATC-TV3, Harson has yet to publicly identify the employee targeted by the search, saying only that he was asked to voluntarily provide access to the office and is cooperating fully with the as-yet unspecified probe.
Jones also would not say which office was searched but did confirm that Harson has been cooperative. "The investigation is ongoing," he says.
Sources close to the investigation tell The Independent the inquiry is primarily related to the office’s prosecution of OWI cases.
Harson did tell The Advocate that the search “carried over to the office of Assistant District Attorney Gregory Williams.” The chief parish prosecutor said that carry-over doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Williams, who handles traffic cases — including OWIs.
Barna Haynes is the wife of Lafayette City Prosecutor Gary Haynes, who handles most OWIs issued by the Lafayette Police Department.
The only known connection between Barna Haynes and PI Williamson is that he provides consulting services to OWI offenders and Barna is Harson’s gatekeeper, setting up all meetings between Harson and those charged with OWI. That means any of Williamson’s clients seeking to enter the OWI pretrial diversion program or get the offense expunged from their records must first go through Barna Haynes.
Although he assists clients in OWI cases, Williamson is not an attorney. A business calling itself Secret Cajun Man Ltd. lists 311 Arnould Blvd. as its address. The only information this newspaper could find online is that the business deals in the "management consultants industry."
Entrance into the pretrial diversion program is at the discretion of the district attorney, and it is not necessary to hire an attorney.
If the DA decides the offender is eligible, the accused enters a conditional no contest or guilty plea. The plea is held in abeyance while he fulfills educational classes, pays a fine and stays out of trouble for a specificied amount of time. There also is typically community service, drug or alcohol testing and counseling. After the person accused — typically a first-offender — successfully fulfills these obligations, the DA dismisses the matter, and the offender can honestly state on employment applications and other documents that he has never been convicted of a crime. To get the arrest off his record, however, another legal maneuver — expungement — must be undertaken.
Sources tell The Independent the FBI probe involves both pretrial diversion program and expungement cases. “You know more than me,” Williamson said when asked if the FBI inquiry was centered on the OWI cases he’s handled.
A source tells The Ind that the feds may also be seeking information from Lafayette Consolidated Government or one of its departments. “We can neither confirm nor deny that we’ve received any subpoenas,” LCG Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said last week.
A woman answering the phone at Harson’s Lafayette office said Barna Haynes, Harson's assistant for more than three decades, is not at work this week. Harson did not return calls from this newspaper and has been mum on the matter since his interview with The Advocate.
DA Mike Harson has been mum on the specific employee the FBI targeted in a recent search of his office, but his son's Facebook post may give some hint as to what the feds are looking for.
Harson's son, however, has not been. Jacob Harson, whose Facebook page indicates that he is a student at UL Lafayette, gave some hint of what the feds may be looking for. He posted this on KATC's website in response to the station's story: “it is apparently one of the employees that works at the district attorneys office was doing something such as taking money for other things of some sort. My dad had nothing to do with it and that is a fact so everybody just needs to wait and see the details when it is released.”