Lafayette DA Update – 9/29/14

09/29/2014

Oh, brother! Kermit Harson supporting Stutes

by Leslie Turk

The Harson boys grew up in Lafayette and don’t have much of a relationship today; Kermit did not elaborate on any other conflicts the two may have had. “There’s a lot of other personal stuff, too,” he says. “But that’s between him and I.”

Kermit is particularly disappointed by the pay-for-plea scandal that has plagued the office for 2.5 years (the feds say the bribery scheme went on for four years under Harson’s nose) and resulted in three former employees pleading guilty to accepting bribes. Kermit blames his brother for much of that. “I think [the] DWI [issue] just broke his back,” Kermit says. “He’s got a different outlook on that particular charge compared to the average person,” Kermit says, claiming Mike thinks the penalties for [OWI] are too severe. Kermit tells The IND Mike has made specific statements directly to him about OWI penalties being too harsh.

Evidenced by two campaign signs erected on his properties in Rayne, where Kermit resides, and in Duson, where the brothers share side-by-side tracts of land they inherited, Kermit Harson believes the next six years should belong to Keith Stutes, the retired assistant district attorney who is challenging his former boss on Nov. 4.

Mike Harson issued the following in response to The IND’s questions about why his brother is not supporting him:

“You have just convinced me that you must be on salary with the Stutes campaign. I was aware of the fact that my brother had met with my opponent, and I can’t think of a lot of ways you would have known about him. My brother and I have been estranged for a number of years and anything he says would not be a surprise to me and he is entitled to his own recollection of events which do not agree with mine.

However, I think it is a very definite sign of desperation to dry to drag personal family issues into this campaign and shows a continuing tie-in between your paper and my opponents’ camp.”

Newell Responds on Perjury Issue

09/26/2014

This morning candidate for Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson Parishes) District Attorney Danny Newell responded to our query on whether or not he would have prosecuted the Simmons alleged perjury case.

Good morning Walter. Sorry for the delay in responding.

I have reviewed everything you provided which included the grand jury indictments of Mrs. Simmons and Mr. Jackson as well as Judge Teat’s Reasons for Judgment. I was not provided with a transcript of the testimony of Mrs. Simmons, a transcript of the testimony of Mr. Jackson, the investigative report of law enforcement nor the transcripts/statements made by all the witnesses interviewed by the district attorney’s office. I also do not know if Judge Teat held either of the witnesses in contempt of court for perjury.

Additionally, I have no idea what evidence was presented to the Grand Jury by the district attorney’s office in order to get the indictments. I don’t know if the evidence presented later turned out to be inaccurate or if witnesses became unavailable or changed their testimony. I don’t know what may have changed after the Grand Jury reviewed the case.

In short, I do not have nearly enough information to make a decision to prosecute or not prosecute.

Thanks
Danny

When we receive a response from Chris Bowman, we will also post his reply.

“Emergency” Fencing @ LP Jail Approved a Year Ago

09/26/2014

Security fencing that is now an “emergency” at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center had been approved to be bid a year ago, Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) has learned.

At Monday’s meeting of the center’s governing commission, an “emergency” was declared so that the state’s public bid law could be waived, and would allow an expedited construction schedule. About two weeks ago, two inmates walked away from the jail and remained at large for several days. That prompted the “emergency,” it was said at the meeting.

But after review of our archives of earlier news stories covering the commission, we discovered that the commission had already authorized bids for fences a year ago – at the 9/27/13 meeting.

Wrote our correspondent who covered the meeting for LPNO in this 9/30/13 news account:

Tuten requested that the Commission authorize advertisement for bids to (1) upgrade three sides of the existing (old) perimeter fence, once side of which does not belong to the facility but to an adjacent property owner; and (2) construct a fence inside the perimeter fence, to serve as an emergency evacuation area in case inmates need to be evacuated for fire, this being required by regulatory agencies. The Commission approved both requests unanimously.

There are no official minutes from that meeting, we were told.

So why is the public bid law important?

The answer is to insure that the taxpayer’s money is spent wisely. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA) has published a summary on the subject. The overview says:

The objective of the Public Bid Law is to increase the public’s confidence in the government’s ability to contract for the construction of public works and purchase goods and services for the best price and to ensure that all persons who are involved with the procurement are treated fairly.

See here the complete document.

There are provisions for emergency declarations in the law, and specific procedures that must be adhered to. But as the fences were duly authorized a year ago, it raises questions why now an “emergency” exists.

Maybe the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office, who operates the facility, should have spent more time tending to business, instead of gardening.

Ouachita Friends of the Library Book Sale This Weekend

09/25/2014

What: Friends of the Library Book Sale

Where: Ouachita Parish Library, West Ouachita Branch, 188 Hwy 546 (Exit 108 north from I20).

When: Friday, September 26th and Saturday, September 27th from 9:00 am to 3:00 p.m each day.

Mayo Called Out by Monroe Transit Employees

09/24/2014

Employees, both past and present, of Monroe Transit said at last night’s meeting of the Monroe City Council that Mayor Jamie Mayo “slandered” them with his baseless accusations of equipment sabotage by employees. It makes no sense, they said, for employees to damage the very equipment that helps produce their livelihood.

Said Damian Armstrong, a 20-year employee and President of Local 1160 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard in my life, about sabotage. I’ve been there this month make 20 years. I’m not going to jeopardize my livelihood, and no one else at Transit, their livelihood because of so-called sabotage. There’s only three people, I think, in the City of Monroe who actually believe this – that’s the Mayor, Mr. Janaway (Public Works Director), and Mark Keenan (Monroe Transit Manager). I’ve talked to a lot people – passengers, friends – no one believes this. They actually think it’s funny.”

Delores Brown, a Transit operator, said much the same thing.

Said Brown, “For the last few weeks, I’ve been hearing about sabotage with Monroe Transit. I have been with Monroe Transit for over thirty something years. No sabotage until now. All I ask is for you all (the council) please start coming and looking for yourselves, instead of taking someone else’s word for it.”

Said Deotis Pruitt, a Transit retiree, “We have too many relatives working over there in Transit. There’s creating positions – we have a street supervisor, we have a regular supervisor, and a general manager. Now we have an assistant general manager, some assistant to the assistant general manager. Where’s the money coming from?”

The remarks from transit employees came near the end of the two hour meeting, after Mayo had left the meeting room.

In other business, the council approved liability insurance coverage for the transit system. The contract that was approved was changed from what appeared on the agenda, in favor of a more expensive policy with no deductible and better coverage.

DA Candidates Asked About Perjury Case

09/24/2014

Earlier today, Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) submitted the following to Danny Newell and Chris Bowman. Both are candidates for election as District Attorney for the Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson Parishes), as is incumbent Jonathan Stewart.

Chris, Danny,

Find attached a copy of Judge Jimmy Teat’s 5/20/13 Reasons for Judgment and accompanying court transcripts, and indictments of two individuals dated 10/17/13.

The underlying case is an assault case that was tried in his court on 5/8/13, and concerned an assault that occurred at a Town of Jonesboro Board of Alderman meeting on 8/14/12. Teat found the defendant guilty at the bench trial. In the reasons, Teat asserts that two witnesses for the defense perjured themselves during their testimony.

At the 6/12/13 sentencing of the defendant in the assault case, Teat again mentioned the perjury issue. See here our reporting on that hearing: Willie Joseph Sentenced to Jail

Subsequently, a Jackson Parish Grand Jury indicted the two for perjury on 10/17/13.

Last week, your opponent in the race for Second Judicial District Attorney, the incumbent District Attorney Jonathan Stewart (through his assistant Douglas Stokes) filed a motion to drop the charges.

The question Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) asks is:

If you were the district attorney, would you have prosecuted the case, or would you have overruled the judgment of the Grand Jury, as did your opponent?

We’ve not submitted the question to Stewart, as his answer is already evident.

Thank you for your prompt reply.

Walter Abbott
Lincoln Parish News Online

We spoke to both candidates last night, and told them we would be submitting the question. As soon as we receive a reply from each candidate, we will publish it, word-for-word.

Perjury Charges Against Simmons Dropped

09/23/2014

Felony perjury charges against Janice Simmons were dropped late last week, sources have told Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO). A motion was filed on September 18 for Nolle Prosequi (we shall no longer prosecute) in Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson Parishes) District Court.

The motion was signed by 2nd JD Assistant District Attorney Douglas Stokes, the sources said, and claimed that upon further investigation of the case, it was determined that the charges were “not provable.”

Simmons was indicted by a Jackson Parish Grand Jury last October.

She was alleged to have falsely testified in court that she witnessed an altercation between Willie Joseph and a citizen after a August, 2012 Jonesboro city council meeting. Joseph was at the time on trial for battery against the citizen.

Earlier this year, a scheduled arraignment of Simmons mysteriously disappeared from the court docket.

Simmons Case Vanishes from Court Docket – 2/4/14

Simmons was never subsequently arraigned.

Simmons and her husband were at one time close political allies with former Jonesboro mayor Leslie Thompson, who is serving a six year sentence for malfeasance. She and her husband contributed money to Thompson’s election, and could often be seen at Town of Jonesboro council meetings.

Escapees Prompt Jail to Spend another Two Hundred Thousand

09/22/2014

A recent incident where two trustys at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center walked off the property has prompted the commission that governs the facility to declare an “emergency” and allow the facility to purchase install nearly 4000 feet of new fencing and two dozen new cameras, at an estimated cost of over $200 thousand.

Warden Jim Tuten told the commission at this morning’s meeting, “We had two people who were in quote trusty status. They were washing our cars – somewhere around five o’clock on Saturday afternoon, they decided they were tired of washing cars and just left.”

Tuten said one of the capital projects for 2014 was to finish fencing the facility. He said it would take about 2900 feet of 10 foot fence, and about 1000 feet of 12 foot fence. He estimated the cost of the shorter fence at about $40/foot, and the 12 foot fencing at about $72/foot.

The emergency declaration will allow circumvention of the state’s public bid law.

About two dozen cameras, along with the associated computers and software, would also be purchased and installed. That cost was estimated to be about $20 thousand.

It was said that the original capital budget for the facility was about $1.4 million, and that somewhere over $900 thousand had been spent.

Tuten said that the number of pre-trial detainees had increased to about 146 inmates today, from about 116 on July 1. Total population during that time has increased to 277 from 238.

There was also discussion about a juvenile detention center for the area, an issue that had come up at the 3/31/14 meeting of the commission.

Size of a potential facility, the number of beds, and estimated costs will continue to be studied, Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone said.

Monroe City Council Tuesday

09/22/2014

The Monroe City Council will meet Tuesday, September 23, 6:00 PM, Monroe City Hall, 400 Lea Joyner Expressway.

Here is the agenda and meeting information.

Volunteer Firefighters Sought for LPFD

09/22/2014

LINCOLN PARISH FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT NO.1
FIREFIGHTER SCHOOL
Fall 2014
– -Press Release – -

Lincoln Parish Fire District No. 1 is looking for committed and enthusiastic members ready to learn. We will be hosting a New Firefighter School for anyone interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter. It’s a very rewarding opportunity to serve those in our community. Participants must be at least 18 years of age, be in good physical condition, and be willing to serve our citizens. Orientation will be held Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at Vienna Station (North of Ruston on Hwy 167) for everyone enrolled. Training will be held October 30, November 3, 4, 6, 10, 13, 17, and 18th from 6:00p.m. to approximately 10:00 p.m. In order to receive a certificate of participation firefighter candidates are expected to attend orientation and all eight training classes. For more information about the firefighter school, or to enroll call (318)255-1055. You may also go to http://www.lpfd.lincolnparish.org to obtain a Volunteer Firefighter Application.


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