St. Landry men plead not guilty

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- St. Landry Parish School Board member John Miller walks into the federal courthouse in Lafayette Thursday for his arraignment on bribery charges.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- St. Landry Parish School Board member John Miller walks into the federal courthouse in Lafayette Thursday for his arraignment on bribery charges.

Two St. Landry Parish School Board members pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges that they each asked a superintendent candidate for $5,000 in exchange for their votes naming him to the post.

Quincy Richard Sr., 50, and John Miller, 71, both of Opelousas, were indicted Oct. 24 on federal bribery charges.

They face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Richard and Miller, who remain on the School Board, both declined comment through their attorneys after their arraignment on the charges Thursday morning.

Federal prosecutor Howard Parker did not ask that the two men be jailed until trial, and they were released on their own recognizance.

“These men are not a risk of flight or a danger to the community,” Parker told U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hill.

Richard and Miller, both longtime board members, are accused of asking superintendent candidate Joseph Cassimere for $5,000 each in return for their votes in naming him superintendent.

Cassimere, one of five candidates for the job, has been serving as interim superintendent.

The school system has been without a superintendent since former Superintendent Michael Nassif stepped down last year.

The board was scheduled to vote Sept. 26 to name someone to the post, but that vote was put on hold after the investigation of Miller and Richard was made public.

The indictment alleges that the two men accepted $5,000 each from a candidate for the superintendent’s job during a Sept. 24 meeting at The Quarters Casino and Travel Plaza in Opelousas.

The indictment does not give the name of the candidate, but a separate report from the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office states the Sheriff’s Office was put on notice Sept. 24 that an FBI agent was conducting a sting operation at the Quarters in reference to Miller and Richard allegedly asking Cassimere for cash in exchange for their votes.