[UPDATE: AG Jeff Landry today confirmed that six people were arrested in a joint investigation between his office and the FBI in connection with the bribery scheme involving former District Attorney Mike Harson's office. Also arrested today along with the three individuals named in this story were Ken Franques, a reserve Lafayette deputy city marshal who also works for the Maurice Police Department; Kevin Ozene of the Lafayette Clerk of Court's office; and Joy Trahan of the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles.]
Newly minted Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry says he will make a “major public corruption announcement” today at 3 p.m. outside of the Lafayette Parish courthouse.
Mule declined to comment on rampant speculation that the announcement involves state charges stemming from the pay-for-plea OWI scandal that rocked the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s office, led to federal charges against six people and helped end the tenure of longtime District Attorney Mike Harson. Harson was defeated in late 2014 by his former assistant, Keith Stutes.
IND sources, however, say local attorneys, at least one more person from the DA’s office and others are expected to be named in the bribery case at today’s press conference.
Booking records appear to support that information. Arrested and booked today (Monday) into the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center were attorneys Dan Kennison and Luke Edwards. Also arrested was Justina Ina, whose LinkedIn profile indicates she most recently was a paralegal/probation officer for the local DA’s office.
Booking records for Kennison indicate that he is facing charges of corrupt influencing (bribe to), criminal conspiracy and accessory after the fact. Edwards is facing corrupt influencing (bribe to), and Ina is looking at a malfeasance in office charge. The online records only give a year of birth for those booked. Kennison is in his early 60s, Edwards his mid-40s and Ina her early 60s. No mug shots were provided, and all three have court dates set for Feb. 2.
Capt. John Babin of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office referred inquiries about the charges to Landry’s office, saying they involve a state attorney general investigation.
In early 2013 The IND reported that Edwards, who once worked as an ADA and then as a public defender in the 15th Judicial District, was one of an unknown number of Lafayette lawyers being investigated by the feds for his alleged role in the bribery conspiracy that had taken place under Harson's nose for years.
At the time, sources with knowledge of the investigation, which involved OWI and other criminal cases prosecuted by Harson’s office, told The IND Edwards received a “target letter” from U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office, giving him an opportunity to cooperate in exchange for reduced charges.
In August 2013, then-AG Buddy Caldwell said no state charges would be filed in the case. More than a year later, however, his son, Assistant AG David Caldwell, hinted that state charges in the case may indeed be forthcoming.
That shift in position came in November 2014, after Stutes was elected. It was Stutes who had forwarded an investigative report on the AG's office, hoping the office would look into possible violations of state law.
The years-long federal bribery investigation had implicated six people in 2013, including Harson’s administrator, Barna Haynes, who had worked for him for three decades, and two others in the office.
Robert Williamson, the 67-year-old private investigator who masterminded the scheme, was sentenced to 6.5 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy, one count of bribery and one count of Social Security fraud. Williamson, who began serving the sentence in November, also got three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $77,677.20 in restitution.
Co-defendants Haynes, 61, former ADA Greg Williams, 47, and Sandra Degeyter, 64, all of Lafayette, were sentenced in July on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Co-defendants Denease Curry, 49, of Broussard, and Elaine Crump, 62, of Lafayette, were also sentenced at that time on one count of misprision of a felony for failure to report bribes offered and received by employees of the DA’s office.
Haynes received 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Williams, Degeyter, Curry and Crump received two years of probation. Additionally, Williams and Degeyter were sentenced to six months of home confinement.
Curry is a former employee of the district attorney’s office. Degeyter and Crump are former employees of Acadiana Outreach.
Check back at the ind.com for more details after today’s press conference.