As expected, ADA Williams and his secretary plead guilty
Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams, 44, who handled traffic cases in the 15th Judicial District, and his secretary, Denease Curry, 46, both pleaded guilty Thursday in the ongoing federal investigation into a bribery scheme involving the prosecution of various criminal and misdemeanor cases. The IND reported a week ago that Williams and Curry were both expected to plead guilty.
Their pleas come on the heels of District Attorney Mike Harson’s 58-year-old secretary admitting Monday that she, too, played a major role in the scheme, accepting $55,000 in bribes over a four-year period (the feds contend she got upwards of $70,000) to help defendants receive favorable outcomes in court. She was bribed by a person listed in court papers only as uncharged co-conspirator #1, whom The IND has identified as Lafayette private investigator Robert Williamson. Haynes and Williamson worked together to help defendants, primarily OWI offenders, access a court process known as immediate 894. Through this process, defendants have their cases dismissed and expunged from their records after completing a series of court requirements: community service, substance abuse counseling and driver safety training. In many cases, however, those requirements were not met, but the defendants were still let off the hook because of the coordinated efforts of Haynes, Williamson and Williams.
Williams and his secretary started getting a piece of the action in early 2010, according to the feds.
ADA Greg Williams, like Haynes, pleaded guilty to a single count bill of information charging him with conspiracy and faces up to five years in prison. Williams’ payments typically came in the form of gifts — an autographed New Orleans Saints hat, bicycles and clothing for him and his family members. In December 2011 Williams accepted a cash payment of $500 from Williamson. “This occurred in Williams’ office at the District Attorney’s Office,” prosecutors note in the plea agreement.
Despite having knowledge Curry planned to plead guilty last week (it remains unclear why the pleas were postponed), Harson allowed her to remain on the job. Harson did not respond to an inquiry asking him how he could justify such a decision. It’s unclear whether Williams stayed on the DA's payroll as well.
Williams will likely face disbarment for his role in the scheme.
Curry pleaded to a single count of misprision of a felony for having knowledge of the bribery and not reporting it and for accepting payments totalling $1,600 to help coordinate some of the plea deals. She could serve up to three years. According to the press release announcing the pleas:
Beginning in 2010, Williams and Curry became aware that Barna Haynes, the former office administrator and secretary to the District Attorney for the 15th Judicial District, and another individual, (hereafter referred to as co-conspirator #1) were utilizing the “immediate 894 plea” sessions to provide favorable dispositions of OWI cases for individuals who were willing to pay co-conspirator #1. Williams served as the prosecuting attorney in all of the “immediate 894 sessions” conducted for co-conspirator #1’s “clients,” and Curry assisted in coordinating those sessions. Both Williams and Curry were aware that the individuals were paying co-conspirator #1 for being allowed to plead in the “immediate 894 sessions.” Williams and Curry also were aware that co-conspirator #1 was not licensed to practice law.
Curry was regularly contacted by Barna Haynes to help coordinate the “immediate 894 sessions.” At the request of Barna Haynes, Curry would contact the district judge’s chambers for the purpose of setting the session, give the judge’s staff the names of the OWI defendants who were to plead guilty, and obtain a date and time for the upcoming session. Curry would contact co-conspirator #1 informing him of the date and time for the “immediate 894 session.” Curry prepared the OWI files for the “immediate 894 sessions” and would regularly see and interact with co-conspirator #1. On the day of the “immediate 894 session,” co-conspirator #1 would escort his “client” to Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams’ office, and Williams would explain to the “client” what he or she could expect to occur during the “immediate 894 session.” In 2010, co-conspirator #1 began giving gifts to Curry. That same year, Barna Haynes took an extended medical leave of absence from the District Attorney’s Office.
Nevertheless, Haynes continued to coordinate the “immediate 894 sessions” for co-conspirator #1’s “clients.” Because of Haynes' absence, both Haynes and co-conspirator #1 turned to Curry for additional assistance in coordinating the “immediate 894 sessions.” During this period, co-conspirator #1 began making a series of $200 cash payments to Curry. After the initial payment from co-conspirator #1, Curry spoke to Barna Haynes of her concerns about the payment. Barna Haynes informed Curry that she was also receiving payments from co-conspirator #1. Curry received approximately eight payments from co-conspirator #1 totaling $1,600.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.