Lafayette lawyer calls OWI pleas in bribery case ‘illegal’
The Advocate reports Friday that on Thursday attorney Barry Sallinger told City Court Judge Doug Saloom that he plans to file a lawsuit challenging the prior plea of his client, Ryan Dean Stelly, one of potentially 100 or so OWI defendants whose cases were handled by Lafayette private investigator Robert Williamson rather than by an attorney.
The potential suit is the latest wrinkle in a messy bribery scheme federal investigators say went on from 2008 to 2012 in District Attorney Mike Harson’s office, a conspiracy that resulted in three guilty pleas from former employees of the DA’s office, three from former employees of Acadiana Outreach Center and the Feb. 28 indictment of the alleged mastermind, 64-year-old Williamson.
Williamson (aka Secret Cajun Man) faces a slew of charges, including six counts of bribery “for operating a pay-for-plea scheme that garnered favorable treatment for defendants charged with state violations of operating while intoxicated,” one count of conspiracy, one count of Social Security fraud and one count of making false statements to federal agents.
Sallinger’s potential legal challenge would center on at least five of those OWI defendants who have since been arrested again on OWI charges. The lawyer is set to argue that those defendants should not face the harsher second-offense penalties because they previously were denied the right to an attorney, instead paying approximately $5,000 to Williamson to have their cases handled via an “immediate 894” program created by District Attorney Mike Harson. Harson's version of the program, which was discontinued amid the controversy because district judges have since refused to hear the cases, was based on Article 894 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure.
Sallinger, who told The Advocate one potential problem is a real attorney could have looked at the earlier DWI cases and possibly raised successful legal challenges to the original charge, says if the Stelly lawsuit is successful, the ruling could apply to all the plea deals that Williamson allegedly arranged. It remains unclear just how many cases were part of the years-long bribery scheme.
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AUG 29 Everyone who cares about Louisiana should take time to peruse this story about coastal loss from Bob Marshall of The Lens. It's not enough to call it a story; it's an interactive experience packed with data and amazing graphics, timelines, history, photos and excellent writing. Set aside some time, because you can't go through this one in a few minutes.
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AUG 29 Huffington Post has a blog called Love Letters, which is grandly described as "an anthology of reflections on places the world over." This entry is from LSU Football Coach Les Miles, who, it appears, loves Baton Rouge. (Of course he does; he's a rich straight white man.) And certainly Baton Rouge loves him - unless he loses (ask Curley "Golden Flake" Hallman about that) or leaves (ask Nick Saban).
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AUG 28 Blogger CB Forgotston has a concept for a new reality show: the wives of the "Dork Dynasty." That's the name that some troopers have given to State Police Commander Mike Edmonson and his inner circle. The ladies CB has picked for his cast are not just housewives, however, and the connections here are pretty interesting.
AUG 28 Blogger Ian McGibboney is writing about the strife in Ferguson in this post, and articulating what many people down south are saying. There's a fairy tale about how there's tons of racism in the South, but it's all hunky dory up North. (Really? Look again.)
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