In a Monday press conference announcing that 15th Judicial District Attorney Mike Harson’s former office administrator/secretary pleaded guilty to accepting bribes for favorable outcomes on felony and misdemeanor cases in the district, including OWI and drug prosecutions, the FBI confirmed that the investigation into the bribery scheme has been ongoing for about two years.
Read Monday's story here.
|Monday's plea agreement details that Barna Haynes and co-conspirator #1 met at his residence to exchange money for her help with cases pending in district court. IND Monthly has identified co-conspirator #1 as local private investigator Robert Williamson, who lives at 311 Arnould Boulevard.|
The factual basis for the plea agreement details that the feds were following Haynes and Williamson since at least December 2011. On Dec. 16, 2011, according to court documents, Haynes met with co-conspirator #1 — whom this paper has identified as private investigator Robert Williamson — at his home in Lafayette. As first reported by IND Monthly in March, federal officials searched Haynes’ office and Williamson’s 311 Arnould Boulevard home on the same day in February last year, the first public indication that a federal probe was under way.
In this story and in all future reporting, this paper will refer to co-conspirator #1 as Williamson — despite that he is only identified in court documents at co-conspirator #1.
Since the offices were searched, there has been much speculation that the feds were wiretapping phones of those being investigated (our sources say the feds sent letters notifying some people that their calls had been lawfully intercepted), and the factual basis for the plea indicates that feds knew when Haynes and Williamson were meeting.
It's not known who else the feds were listening in on, but U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley says there will be more guilty pleas in the case. Haynes, 58, faces up to five years in prison.
Williamson, however, won't be pleading guilty, at least not anytime soon. His attorney, J. Michael Small of Alexandria, says his client has not been offered a plea deal. In the meantime, Williamson, who says he is schizophrenic and bipolar, has asked the court to declare him incompetent to manage his own affairs.
On that day in mid-December, Haynes went to Williamson's home to collect paperwork associated with his upcoming cases. Afterwards, Williamson drove to a local market where he obtained a “bundle of currency,” according to the plea agreement. Haynes then met Williamson at a Lafayette post office and was paid approximately $2,000 for cases in which Williamson’s “clients” pleaded guilty in an "immediate 894" session on the previous day.
Citing a “lack of oversight and safeguards” in the DA's office, Finley says Haynes began placing Williamson's clients' OWI cases in this process, which ultimately dismisses the conviction and expunges the record. In order to qualify, charged individuals had to provide proof at the time of the plea that they had completed all legal prerequisities, including community service (some defendants' community service through Acadiana Outreach, court records show, was done before the person was even arrested), a substance abuse program and a driver safety program. Finley says Haynes would coordinate the scheduling and execution of special immediate 894 sessions with the district court judge and the assigned assistant district attorney.
On Feb. 2, 2012, Haynes again went to Williamson’s home to collect $1,000 for coordinating two OWI cases in the immediate 894 sessions and for drafting expungement paperwork, according to the plea agreement.
Later that month, on Feb. 27, Haynes once more visited Williamson’s home and was paid $500 for having helped resolve a non-OWI criminal case. It would be her last visit to his Arnould Boulevard home.
On that day, the feds had apparently seen enough: they executed search warrants on Haynes’ office and Williamson’s home, and also searched the office of Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams, who handles traffic prosecutions. Williams and his secretary are expected to enter guilty pleas any day now.