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.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.