Lafayette

Jan 30, 2014 6:12 PM by Tina Macias

Lawsuit questions legitimacy of pleas at the center of OWI bribery scandal

The legitimacy of plea agreements at the center of the 15th Judicial District's OWI bribery scheme is being questioned in a lawsuit filed this week.

In the suit, Ryan Stelly says he's a former client of private investigator Robert Williamson. Stelly says he paid Williamson $5,000 to negotiate a plea deal for a 2008 first-offense OWI.

The plea became part of a federal "pay-for-plea" bribery scheme in which three former District Attorney's Office employees have pleaded guilty for their participation. Williamson is awaiting trial. He is accused of paying DA employees for special plea deals.

In the suit, Stelly says he was an unknowing participant in the scheme and says he was under the understanding that the plea and its process was legal. Stelly wants that case thrown out because and he was never advised by the DA's office or Williamson that he was giving up his constitutional right to an attorney by hiring Williamson, who is not an attorney.

Since his first arrest, Stelly was arrested for a second-offense OWI and could face a less harsh punishment if it is downgraded to a first-offense OWI.

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