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Former Lafayette deputy pleads guilty in Knight conspiracy; former CEO set for trial

Posted: 2:50 PM, Jun 22, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-22 15:50:52-04

A former Lafayette Parish narcotics investigator has reached a plea agreement for his role in a Knight Oil Tools heir’s scheme to frame his brother in a drug arrest.

Jason Kinch, 42, pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of public bribery and one count of corrupt influencing, according to the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court’s office. He will be sentenced on July 25.

As part of his plea agreement, Kinch has agreed to testify against Mark Knight. The former Knight Oil Tools president and CEO is set to stand trial in August for his alleged scheme to plant drugs on his younger brother, Bryan Knight, as the heirs battled over ownership of the family business.

Prosecutor: New evidence of money-laundering against Mark Knight

Alan Haney, the 15th Judicial District prosecutor who leads the case, wrote in a court filling this month that he intends to introduce new money-laundering evidence against Mark Knight, who faces drug-racketeering charges.

According to the filling, Knight Oil Tools sold more than $2.4 million in scrap pipe during a period in 2014, the proceeds of which Mark Knight allegedly personally collected through a number of small-sum checks.

The two other defendants in the drug-planting scheme have already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Mark Knight.

Corey Jackson, 43, a former Louisiana State Police trooper, pleaded guilty in April to a count of malfeasance in office and is set for sentencing in July.

Russell Manuel, described as Mark Knight’s henchman , pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiracy to commit corrupt influencing, conspiracy to distribute methadone and hydrocodone, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and intimidating a witness.

Manuel plea agreement details roles in alleged scheme

The Knight brothers were locked into a legal battle over Knight Oil Tools ownership when, in June 2014, Bryan Knight faced arrest on possession of cocaine, methadone and painkillers. Months later, all four defendants were arrested and indicted on accusations they framed the man.

Manuel admitted as part of his plea agreement that Mark Knight ordered him to try to catch Bryan Knight with drugs. Manuel had GPS tracking devices installed on Bryan Knight’s vehicle and arranged with Kinch and Jackson to arrest him with drugs, according to the factual basis for his plea agreement.

Manuel further admitted in the agreement that when initial attempts to catch Bryan Knight with drugs failed, Kinch helped Manual obtain cocaine, methadone and hydrocodone and place the drugs in a waterproof container magnetized to Bryan Knight’s vehicle.

At the time, Kinch was a Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s deputy who worked on the Metro Narcotics Task Force.

Manuel called in a tip on Bryan Knight’s whereabouts to Lafayette police, who found him, found the drugs and made the arrest.

For all of that, Manuel claimed Mark Knight paid him a year’s salary and also paid Kinch and Jackson for their role.