As expected, ADA Williams and his secretary plead guilty

by Leslie Turk

Their guilty pleas bring to three the number of people now facing jail time in the bribery scheme involving cases prosecuted by District Attorney Mike Harson's office. Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams, 44, who handled traffic cases in the 15th Judicial District, and his secretary, Denease Curry, 46, both pleaded guilty Thursday in the ongoing federal investigation into a bribery scheme involving the prosecution of various criminal and misdemeanor cases. The IND reported a week ago that Williams and Curry were both expected to plead guilty.

Their pleas come on the heels of District Attorney Mike Harson's 58-year-old secretary admitting Monday 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. She was bribed by a person listed in court papers only as uncharged co-conspirator #1, whom The IND has identified as Lafayette private investigator Robert Williamson. Haynes and Williamson worked together to help defendants, primarily OWI offenders, access a court process known as immediate 894. Through this process, defendants have their cases dismissed and expunged from their records after completing a series of court requirements: community service, substance abuse counseling and driver safety training. In many cases, however, those requirements were not met, but the defendants were still let off the hook because of the coordinated efforts of Haynes, Williamson and Williams.

Williams and his secretary started getting a piece of the action in early 2010, according to the feds.

ADA Greg Williams, like Haynes, pleaded guilty to a single count bill of information charging him with conspiracy and faces up to five years in prison. Williams' payments typically came in the form of gifts - an autographed New Orleans Saints hat, bicycles and clothing for him and his family members. In December 2011 Williams accepted a cash payment of $500 from Williamson. "This occurred in Williams' office at the District Attorney's Office," prosecutors note in the plea agreement.

Despite having knowledge Curry planned to plead guilty last week (it remains unclear why the pleas were postponed), Harson allowed her to remain on the job. Harson did not respond to an inquiry asking him how he could justify such a decision. It's unclear whether Williams stayed on the DA's payroll as well.

Williams will likely face disbarment for his role in the scheme.

Curry pleaded to a single count of misprision of a felony for having knowledge of the bribery and not reporting it and for accepting payments totalling $1,600 to help coordinate some of the plea deals. She could serve up to three years. According to the press release announcing the pleas:
Beginning in 2010, Williams and Curry became aware that Barna Haynes, the former office administrator and secretary to the District Attorney for the 15th Judicial District, and another individual, (hereafter referred to as co-conspirator #1) were utilizing the "immediate 894 plea" sessions to provide favorable dispositions of OWI cases for individuals who were willing to pay co-conspirator #1. Williams served as the prosecuting attorney in all of the "immediate 894 sessions" conducted for co-conspirator #1's "clients," and Curry assisted in coordinating those sessions. Both Williams and Curry were aware that the individuals were paying co-conspirator #1 for being allowed to plead in the "immediate 894 sessions." Williams and Curry also were aware that co-conspirator #1 was not licensed to practice law.

Curry was regularly contacted by Barna Haynes to help coordinate the "immediate 894 sessions." At the request of Barna Haynes, Curry would contact the district judge's chambers for the purpose of setting the session, give the judge's staff the names of the OWI defendants who were to plead guilty, and obtain a date and time for the upcoming session. Curry would contact co-conspirator #1 informing him of the date and time for the "immediate 894 session." Curry prepared the OWI files for the "immediate 894 sessions" and would regularly see and interact with co-conspirator #1. On the day of the "immediate 894 session," co-conspirator #1 would escort his "client" to Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams' office, and Williams would explain to the "client" what he or she could expect to occur during the "immediate 894 session." In 2010, co-conspirator #1 began giving gifts to Curry. That same year, Barna Haynes took an extended medical leave of absence from the District Attorney's Office.

Nevertheless, Haynes continued to coordinate the "immediate 894 sessions" for co-conspirator #1's "clients." Because of Haynes' absence, both Haynes and co-conspirator #1 turned to Curry for additional assistance in coordinating the "immediate 894 sessions." During this period, co-conspirator #1 began making a series of $200 cash payments to Curry. After the initial payment from co-conspirator #1, Curry spoke to Barna Haynes of her concerns about the payment. Barna Haynes informed Curry that she was also receiving payments from co-conspirator #1. Curry received approximately eight payments from co-conspirator #1 totaling $1,600.
As part of the agreement, all three are cooperating in the investigation and will testify when the case goes to trial - in all likelihood against Williamson, who has asked the state court to declare him incompetent to manage his affairs because he suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and has recently had a series of mini strokes.