In a bill of information filed Friday, U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley charged Degeyter with a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery. On Monday Finley's office told The IND Degeyter would be entering a plea this afternoon. In a bill of information, a defendant waives his right to a grand jury indictment and agrees, instead, to plead guilty. Degeyter, who was employed at Acadiana Outreach from March 2008 to October 2009, according to the bill of information, accepted bribes while she worked for the nonprofit and again after she left it.
In early February, Elaine Crump of Lafayette, another former case manager at Acadiana Outreach, admitted she accepted money to help falsify community service documents for OWI and other defendants and pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for failing to report the bribery scheme.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says 59-year-old Crump got between $1,000 and $2,000 for her participation, in payments ranging from $25 to $100 in cash. The bill of information on Degeyter does disclose her age nor does it indicate how much money she received.
The feds say Degeyter conspired with an unnamed co-conspirator — The IND has identified the uncharged co-conspirator as private investigator Robert Williamson — to provide false certifications of community service to individuals charged with crimes in the 15th Judicial District. Degeyter later also conspired with Crump after Degeyter left the nonprofit. She would share some of the payments she received from the unnamed co-conspirator with Crump so that Crump would allow her to continue creating the fraudulent certificates on which Degeyter would sign Crump’s name. In an effort to avoid detection, Degeyter would provide Crump with the names of the individuals for whom she had prepared false certificates and the number of completed community service hours reflected on the fraudulent certificates, enabling Crump to falsely verify the accuracy of the certificates if questioned by employees of Acadiana Outreach or courthouse staff.
The conspiracy continued even after Crump herself was fired from Acadiana Outreach in 2011.
As The IND previously reported, Crump’s signature appeared on some OWI defendants’ community service certification forms after she was terminated — one for hours completed nearly nine months before the person was even arrested for OWI.
Acadiana Outreach says it has cooperated fully in the federal investigation.
The scheme in which Crump and Degeyter participated provided favorable treatment primarily for those charged with OWI and also involved at least three employees of the DA's office. Through the process known as an “immediate 894,” Williamson's "clients" (he is not an attorney) appeared before District Judge Ed Rubin, pleaded guilty and instantly had their convictions set aside and expunged from their records after purportedly completing a series of court requirements: community service, substance abuse counseling and driver safety training. The feds said the program was used exclusively for Williamson's "clients" and that the cases were always heard by Rubin.
Harson created the local program based on the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure 894 but told The Advertiser last week that the program has been discontinued because other judges in the district have refused to hear the cases.
Degeyter’s guilty plea in the ongoing investigation follows that of Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams, 44, who handled traffic prosecutions in the 15th Judicial District, and his secretary, Denease Curry, 46.
Their pleas came on the heels of Harson’s 58-year-old secretary, Barna Haynes, admitting 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. All four of those who have pleaded guilty admit they were bribed by co-conspirator #1, Williamson, who has not been charged.
Crump, Williams and Curry face up to three years in prison and Haynes up to five years. All have agreed to cooperate fully in the investigation. It's unclear how much time Degeyter is facing.
Haynes, Curry and Williams are scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 8 beginning at 11 a.m.