PI Williamson gets 6.5 years for role in DA bribery scheme

by Walter Pierce

The Lafayette private investigator was at the heart of the pay-for-plea scheme widely credited with bringing down former District Attorney Mike Harson.

Robert Williamson, the private investigator at the center of the pay-for-plea scandal that rocked the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s office and helped end the tenure of longtime D.A. Mike Harson in last year’s election, has been sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $77,000 in restitution.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office at the federal courthouse in Lafayette lays out the case against Williamson in a press release issued early Friday:

Robert Williamson was sentenced to 78 months in prison on charges related to his role in a pay-for-plea scheme that garnered favorable treatment for defendants charged with OWI and various state crimes.

Williamson, 67, of Lafayette, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote on one count of conspiracy, one count of bribery and one count of Social Security fraud. He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $77,677.20 in restitution. According to the June 8, 2015 guilty plea, Williamson, who is not licensed to practice law, was part of a conspiracy from March 2008 to February 2012 that solicited thousands of dollars from individuals with pending criminal charges in the 15th Judicial District. Williamson promised favorable resolutions to pending felony and misdemeanor cases, the majority of which were OWI cases.

Williamson paid bribes in cash and other things of value to personnel within the District Attorney’s Office for the 15th Judicial District and employees with other organizations associated with the OWI program, including Acadiana Outreach. Williamson also obtained false and fraudulent certifications from Acadiana Outreach, which certified that his clients completed court-ordered community service, when in fact the individuals had not. Williamson would obtain fraudulent driver safety training certificates showing that Williamson’s clients completed court-mandated driver improvement programs when they had not. Some of those monies were for fines, penalties and other expenses. During the course of the scheme, Williamson also received approximately $77,677.20 from the Social Security Administration that he was not entitled to receive.

“The public good was circumvented by the greed and lies perpetrated by Williamson and his associates,” Finley stated. “People who should have been dissuaded from drunk driving by receiving jail time and other penalties were instead given a pass to endanger lives again and again. The damage that this conspiracy has wrought cannot be quantified. We hope that this sentence brings an end to this type of practice and serves as a warning to anyone who would try to conduct a similar scam and circumvent the legal process.”

Co-defendants Barna D. Haynes, 61, Greg Williams, 47, and Sandra Degeyter, 64, all of Lafayette, were sentenced July 10, 2015 by Foote on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Co-defendants Denease Curry, 49, of Broussard, and Elaine Crump, 62, of Lafayette, were also sentenced by Foote July 10, 2015 on one count of misprision of a felony for failure to report bribes offered and received by employees of the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Haynes received one year 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. Hanyes, Williams and Curry are former employees of the District Attorney’s Office. Degeyter and Crump are former employees of Acadiana Outreach.