Former Office Administrator For District Attorney Mike Harson Pleads Guilty To Federal Charges
58-year-old Barna Haynes of Lafayette, former Office Administrator/Secretary for the Lafayette DA, admitted to taking $55,000 in bribes in return for securing lighter sentences for some defendants who were accused of OWIs.
U.S. District Attorney Stephanie Finley says Haynes admitted to accepting bribes from a co-conspirator, who Haynes knew had never been licensed to practice law, in return for her assistance in getting favorable resolutions in the criminal cases. The U.S. Attorney's Office did not identify the co-conspirator by name or occupation, just as "he."
The U.S. Attorney is accusing Haynes of using a provision in Louisiana state law called "immediate 894 pleas" that allows someone accused of an OWI to plead guilty in return for a sentence of community service, drug use and driver safety programs, and an acquittal of all OWI charges and reinstatement of driving privileges. Haynes is accused of taking money in return for allowing her co-conspirator's clients to go straight to immediate 894 pleas without the DA's approval.
Finley says beginning in 2008, Haynes began placing OWI cases of the co-conspirator's "clients" in the immediate 894 process without the District Attorney's knowledge and approval. Haynes would then take care of all the other details to get these "clients" off. She collected $500 per case by the co-conspirator. In addition to this, Finley says the co-conspirator paid Haynes to take care of other drug, felony and misdemeanor cases as well.
While Haynes admitted to accepting $55,000 in bribes, the prosecution says the payments exceeded $70,000. (To see Haynes' admission, click Barna Haynes' Admission Documents). Haynes pled guilty to a one count Bill of Information charging her with Conspiracy.She faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at sentencing.
Finley had this to say about the case:
Corruption in the District Attorney’s Office erodes public confidence in the fair prosecution and resolution of criminal cases and threatens to undermine our judicial system. My office, along with the FBI, is committed to aggressively investigating and prosecuting those who try to advance their personal agendas through bribery.