Lafayette DA Update – 1/24/14

Harson dispels ‘rumors,’ saying he’s all in

In a recent letter (the one forwarded to The IND was not dated) that begins “Dear Supporter,” 15th Judicial District Attorney Mike Harson aims to dispel any “rumors” that he will not seek re-election. The DA, however, does not once mention what’s driving the speculation that he won’t run for a fifth term this year: His former longtime administration, Barna Haynes, was a central figure in a bribery scheme that went on for years within earshot of his office.

Haynes has already pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing, while the alleged mastermind, Robert Williamson, is set for trial March 10. He is charged with six counts of bribery “for operating a pay-for-plea scheme that garnered favorable treatment for defendants charged with state violations of operating while intoxicated,” one count of conspiracy, one count of Social Security fraud and one count of making false statements to federal agents. He pleaded not guilty.

Before Williamson was indicted Feb. 28, four others involved in the scheme pleaded guilty. Like Haynes, they are awaiting sentencing.

Harson’s only announced opposition so far is his former lead prosecutor, Keith Stutes, whose biggest case was the effectively orchestrated prosecution of Brandon Scott Lavergne for the murders of Mickey Shunick in May 2012 and Lisa Pate in 1999. In August 2012, Lavergne was sentence to life at Angola.

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