DA Mike Harson Criticizes Stutes, Media On Handling Of Bribery Scandal
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story cited Harson as saying Keith Stutes first used the Immediate 894 plea arrangement for one of his clients. Harson actually said the plea deal was arranged for one of Stutes' supporters.
No one, including members of the media, got an accurate depiction of what happened in the office of the 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office, according to Mike Harson, who is seeking re-election.
During a Friday interview with "Nathan & Bernie in the Morning," Harson said the so-called "secret program," which allowed defendants to complete a certification process before sentencing and have their drunken driving charges and other crimes cleared faster, was no secret and is actually a part of the Code of Criminal Procedure in state statute.
As far as the exploitation of that statute by members of his office, Harson said a two-year federal investigation "found nothing on me. I was never a target. They never said anything about me. I cooperated fully with them."
"It was just something that I was authorized to do because I'm entrusted with the ability to determine who, when, where, and how to prosecute," Harson said. "And if I can help someone but make him accountable--hold him accountable--then I'm going to try to do that because I know how tough the system is."
In fact Harson said his opponent in the race, former prosecutor Keith Stutes, was the first to request an Immediate 894 plea for one of his supporters. Harson OK'd the measure as long as he could find a judge to sign off on the plea.
As far as the exploitation of that statute by members of his office, Harson said a two-year federal investigation "found nothing on me. I was never a target. They never said anything about me. I cooperated fully with them." Harson said Stutes attempt to link the scandal to him is merely an effort to unseat him from the office and that continued accusations against him are "downright slanderous almost."
Harson also questioned Stutes' timeline of the events leading up to the federal investigation. In a previous interview with KPEL, Stutes said he first learned of that investigation on Sept. 28, 2012, but Harson said that would have been four months after the fact.
Stutes said he initiated his own investigation into the alleged improprieties in the office, but Harson contends the only investigation he was aware of was one in which Stutes was trying to figure out who was falsifying community service documents. Harson said he approved that investigation, and his signature is on documents sent to the Attorney General's office.
That report was dated May 10, 2012, Harson said.
"He couldn't have done an investigation in September if he'd already done it in May," Harson said. "He [Stutes] knows full well that that report didn't implicate me at all."
Harson said among his most proud achievements over the course of his nearly 20 years in office was the starting of the Stuller Place, a children's advocacy center that Harson said he was "instrumental" in developing.
Harson is also proud of a diversion program for young offenders that helps them become accountable for their actions. He was also the first district attorney in the district to set up regular office hours in all three parishes.
"It provides a service to the people and being able to listen to them and give them a chance to have their say in some serious decisions," Harson said.
To listen to the full interview with Harson, click on the 'Play' button below.