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Landry: Feds looking at pretrial intervention program

Lafayette Parish Courthouse
Posted at 4:47 PM, May 10, 2022

Lafayette District Attorney Don Landry has confirmed that the federal investigation that had FBI agents at his office for hours on Monday is connected to his pretrial intervention program.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Landry says that the number of people in the program "has increased." He said his office will cooperate fully with the federal investigation, and hire an auditor to make sure the program is being handled properly.

Here's his full statement:
"Since taking office in January of 2021, we have put significant effort into improving our Pretrial lntervention Program, and the numbers of enrollees in that program has increased. That has allowed our Pretrial lntervention Program to help more people than in prior years. This program is for nonviolent offenders who typically have not committed a prior crime, and is designed to be an opportunity to pay restitution, undergo counseling to change behaviors, and to become contributing members of our community. That is a good thing.

"All the questions I was asked by federal investigators yesterday surrounded the Pretrial lntervention Program. I told investigators we will share with them any information they need and my office will cooperate with whatever is asked of us. My office will continue to be transparent with federal investigators and the public through this process.

ln addition, I intend to retain auditors to ensure that all of our procedures and safeguards were complied with. We take these steps to ensure the public trust is maintained and that our office conducts itself with the highest integrity. We are continuing to operate our Pretrial lntervention Program under the duties imposed by Louisiana law. Please understand that I have many hardworking, talented people working in our District Attorney's Office, and we will continue to do everything in our power to continue to keep our community safe and free from crime."

This not the first time that federal authorities have investigated a pretrial program in the 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

In 2015, the feds wrapped up a corruption investigation into the 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office. Six people - the DA's secretary, an assistant district attorney and his secretary, a private investigator and two employees of an outreach program - pleaded guilty and were sentenced in the case.

The private investigator, Robert Williamson, admitted to finding customers for a bribery scheme that would produce "favorable outcomes" in pending criminal cases in exchange for money. Most of the cases were DWI cases. Williamson would find the defendants, get money and other things of valuable out of them, and then bribe the others to get the outcome the accused person wanted. "The favorable resolutions were obtained by improperly manipulating the procedures" required by Louisiana law, DOJ officials said at the time.

Only two people received prison sentences - Williamson, who got more than six years, and Barna Haynes, who got 18 months. Haynes was former District Attorney Mike Harson's long-time secretary and is the wife of Gary Haynes, who at the time was Lafayette's City Prosecutor. He currently works as a city prosecutor and for the District Attorney's Office. Former Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams, his secretary Denease Curry, and former Acadiana Outreach employees Elaine Crump and Sandra Degeyter, all received probation sentences. Williams and Degeyter also served six months home confinement, and Curry and Crump had to perform community service.

Gary Haynes, who currently works as a Lafayette City Prosecutor and as the Assistant District Attorney in the Pretrial Intervention Program, is on administrative leave from the City post, officials confirmed Tuesday. We've asked Landry for Haynes' employment status at the DA office but have not heard back yet.

According to the guilty pleas in the 2015 investigation, the defendants conspired to move cases through the legal system.

From March 2008 to February 2012, Williamson solicited thousands of dollars from individuals with pending criminal charges in the 15th Judicial District and promised them favorable resolutions to pending felony and misdemeanor cases, the majority of which were OWI cases, under Louisiana's pre-trial diversion law.

That law allows a person to initially plead guilty to a crime with the understanding that the conviction will be set aside if the person successfully completes certain requirements imposed during a probationary period.

Back when this conspiracy started, the District Attorney’s Office had a process that allowed some defendants to receive what was referred to as “immediate 894 pleas” on OWI cases. In order to qualify for the immediate 894 plea, the charged individuals were required to provide certifications at the time of the plea stating that they had completed all legal prerequisites, including community service, a substance abuse program and a driver safety program. If the District Attorney authorized the immediate 894 plea, the case was not placed on any docket, and the defendant was allowed to plead at a time and place different than the normal OWI docket. Following the entry of the immediate 894 plea, the judge would grant the 894 motion, dismissing the conviction, which served as an acquittal, thereby enabling those OWI defendants to immediately reinstate their driving privileges with no record.

According to court documents, Williamson charged individuals as much as $5,000 to participate in the Article 894 process. He also paid bribes in cash and other things of value to employees of the 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office, who included Haynes, who at the time worked as the administrative assistant to the district attorney; Williams, who was an assistant district attorney; and Curry, who was Williams’ secretary and assisted Haynes with the Williamson cases. Williamson also paid bribes in cash and other things of value to employees of other organizations associated with the OWI program, including Acadiana Outreach, where Crump and Degeyter were formerly employed. Williamson obtained false and fraudulent certifications from Acadiana Outreach, which certified that his clients completed court-ordered community service when in fact the individuals had not.

Beginning in 2008, Barna Haynes began transferring Williamson’s “clients” from city court (where her husband Gary Haynes was prosecutor) to district court. Specifically, if one of Williamson’s clients was scheduled to appear in city court, Haynes transferred the case to district court and scheduled the case to be resolved during one of the “immediate 894 sessions.” Haynes also prepared the expungement paperwork associated with Williamson’s clients and was paid $500 for each case. During the course of the conspiracy, Haynes received at least $55,000 from Williamson.

Williams, the Assistant District Attorney, handled immediate 894 pleas and received bribes for his role in the scheme. Beginning in 2010, he was aware of Haynes and Williamson’s arrangement to place cases into district court to be heard as part of the 894 sessions and that Williamson was not an attorney. Williamson gave Williams payments to include $500 cash, an autographed New Orleans Saints hat, bicycles for Williams and his family members, and clothing for Williams.

Sometime beginning in 2010, Curry became aware that Haynes and Williamson were using the immediate 894 pleas for favorable disposition of certain cases, mostly OWIs. Curry began helping to coordinate the immediate 894 sessions and would contact the judge’s chambers to set up the sessions. Curry also prepared Williams’ files for the sessions. After Haynes took an extended medical leave in 2010, Williamson paid Curry $200 for each case for a total of $1,600.

Beginning in 2008, Degeyter agreed to provide false and fraudulent Acadiana Outreach community service certificates to Williamson in exchange for money. The fraudulent certificates falsely confirmed that Williamson’s clients completed court-ordered community service. Williamson paid Degeyter $100 per certificate. Degeyter admitted producing more than 50 false certificates between the spring of 2008 and October 2009. She received between $5,000 and $10,000 in bribes.

Crump, who was also employed as a case manager at Acadiana Outreach, was asked by Degeyter to assist with continuing the scheme. The two agreed that Degeyter would continue to create fraudulent Acadiana Outreach community service certificates, and in exchange for cash payments, Crump would permit Degeyter to sign Crump’s name on the fraudulent certificates. Degeyter began providing cash payments to Crump, from $25 to $100, which was a portion of what Degeyter received from Williamson. Shortly after Crump was laid off from Acadiana Outreach in September 2011, Degeyter and Crump agreed that Degeyter would continue creating additional certificates and sign Crump’s name on them, backdating the documents to dates within Crump’s employment at Acadiana Outreach. She received between $1,000 and $2,000 in bribes.

That case was investigated by the FBI and the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation.