Lafayette Assistant District Attorney And His Secretary Now Charged In Bribery Scheme
On Monday, KPEL News reported on 58-year-old Barna Haynes, former Office Administrator/Secretary for Lafayette District Attorney Mike Harson, admitting to taking $55,000 in bribes in return for securing lighter sentences for some defendants who were accused of OWIs.
Now, two more people, 44-year-old Lafayette Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams of Lafayette and his 46-year-old secretary Denease Curry, have pled guilty for their involvement in the bribery scheme. Williams has pled guilty to a one-count Bill of Information charging him with Conspiracy to commit Bribery (see Greg Williams Plea Agreement); Curry has pled guilty to a separate one-count Bill of Information charging her with Misprision of a Felony, which basically means failure to report the bribery scheme (see Denease Curry Plea Agreement).
As KPEL News reported, Haynes confessed to, beginning in 2008, using a legal 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. U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley says Haynes admitted to taking the bribery money from "co-conspirator #1", as called by the U.S. Attorney's Office, in return for allowing "co-conspirator #1's" clients to go straight to "immediate 894 pleas without the DA's approval. Finley says Haynes did all of this without the DA's knowledge and approval. She says Haynes also accepted $500 per case from "co-conspirator #1" for work on these cases, as well as other drug, felony and misdemeanor cases.
U.S. Attorney 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.
U.S. Attorney Finley says Williams and Curry would get gifts from "co-conspirator #1" for their services. Finley says Williams got a series of gifts and a cash payment for his participation. The gifts included an autographed New Orleans Saints hat, bicycles and clothing for Williams and family members. Williams also admitted to getting a cash payment of $500. This occurred in Williams’ office at the District Attorney’s Office.
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.