James Gill: Mouton ‘may well fold’ to the feds for a deal
Longtime Times-Picayune political columnist James Gill says Lafayette’s Henry Mouton is “under enormous pressure” to accept a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony against landfill giant Fred Heebe.
Gill writes in a Sunday Times-Pic column that Mouton’s recent federal indictment was a mere consequence of federal investigators’ ongoing probe into former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard and his administration, which helped to shape a still controversial $160 million garbage disposal contract with River Birch Landfill, owned by Heebe.
Mouton has been formally charged with conspiracy, receiving illegal payoffs and making false statements to federal agents after the feds found that Mouton, a former state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries commissioner, received almost a half a million dollars from River Birch landfill while lobbying for the closure of a rival landfill.
The feds are accusing Mouton of using his position as a WL&F commissioner to lobby for the landfill, but recent articles point out that Mouton was paid by River Birch years before and stayed on the payroll for another two years after leaving the commission:
Mouton’s indictment leaves the strong impression that the feds have Heebe cold, but, [Heebe’s lawyer Kyle] Schonekas points out, it does so by mangling fact. It suggests, for instance, that Mouton started receiving payments from River Birch shortly after he was appointed to the wildlife commission in 2003. In fact, he had been on the payroll since 1999, Schonekas says. That, unless the feds suspect Heebe of clairvoyance, hardly fits the theory that he was taken on to use his official stroke to squelch River Birch’s competition.
[Mouton] may well fold yet, and will indeed be under enormous pressure to do so. According to the indictment, Mouton lied to the FBI and failed to pay taxes on the River Birch money, so the feds can destroy him regardless of the bribery rap. But if he is sweating, so will the feds be so long as he declines to roll over, because Heebe promises to be a tough nut.
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