Sentencing Date Set For Bribery Case In Mike Harson’s Office
Three former employees in the 15th judicial district attorney's office are now scheduled to be sentenced in August for their part in a bribery scheme.
The U.S. Attorney's office says Harson's former secretary Barna Haynes and an assistant district attorney Greg Williams were using a provision in Louisiana state law called "immediate 894 pleas" to allow someone accused of an OWI to plead guilty in return for a sentence of community service, drug use prevention and driver safety programs along with an acquittal of all OWI charges and reinstatement of driving privileges.
Officials say it was a pay-for-privilege bribery scheme. Haynes admitted to taking $55,000 in bribes in return for helping people get the lighter sentences. Haynes pleaded guilty to a one count Bill of Information charging her with conspiracy.
Williams pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to accept bribes. Prosecutors say the 44-year-old Lafayette Assistant District Attorney was serving as the prosecuting attorney in the scheme.
Williams' secretary, 46-year-old Denease Curry, will also face sentencing for helping coordinate the "immediate 894 sessions" by giving the district judge's staff the names of the OWI defendants who were to plead guilty. She failed to report the bribery scheme.
U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley says ADA Williams found out about Haynes' scheme in 2010 and served as the prosecuting attorney in all of the "immediate 894 sessions," with Curry assisting in coordinating the those sessions.
Finley says both Williams and Curry were aware that the individuals were paying "co-conspirator #1" for being allowed to plead in the "immediate 894 sessions." The two also admitted to being aware that "co-conspirator #1" was not licensed to practice law, just like Haynes was aware as well.
U.S. Attorney Finley says Curry served as a regular contact for Haynes to help coordinate the "immediate 894 sessions" and give the district judge's staff the names of the OWI defendants who were to plead guilty. Curry would then tell "co-conspirator #1" of the date and time of the sessions, who would then bring in his "clients" to Williams' office so he could explain what to expect during these sessions.
At sentencing, Haynes faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; Williams faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; Curry faces three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Finley says of this case:
There is no place for this kind of activity in the criminal justice system. Both Williams and Curry were entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that justice was served as it related to the OWI cases. They grossly violated that trust. My office, along with the FBI, will continue to investigate and prosecute corruption in the Western District of Louisiana.