LAFAYETTE — A federal jury on Tuesday convicted St. Landry Parish School Board member Quincy Richard Sr. on bribery charges for accepting $5,000 from a superintendent candidate in exchange for Richard’s vote to give him the job.
The 12-member jury deliberated about an hour before returning a unanimous verdict after a two-day trial in which the jurors saw a video of Richard pocketing a white envelope stuffed with cash in a meeting that was secretly recorded by the FBI.
Richard sat expressionless as the verdict was read and declined comment when leaving the courtroom.
Richard, 51, and fellow board member John Miller, 72, were accused of soliciting payments of $5,000 each from superintendent candidate Joseph Cassimere in return for supporting him for the job and lobbying other board members to secure the seven votes needed for Cassimere to secure the post.
Miller pleaded guilty to a bribery charge earlier this year and testified in the trial this week against Richard.
The case began in the spring of 2012, when Cassimere said he was approached by the two board members and asked why he wanted to be superintendent.
Cassimere testified Tuesday that after he talked of his past accomplishments and his vision for the school system, Richard responded: “It’s going to take a little bit more than that.”
Cassimere said Richard and Miller made what seemed to be veiled references to a bribe, but he had brushed off the meeting until Richard followed with a phone call to ask if he had considered the offer.
“At that particular time, I thought, ‘This is real,’” Cassimere said.
The superintendent candidate then contacted the FBI, launching an investigation that ended on Sept. 24 in an exchange of cash at the Quarters Restaurant and Casino in Opelousas that was monitored by the FBI.
The FBI had given Cassimere a small audio recorder, and two agents posing as husband and wife sat at a nearby table in the restaurant with a hidden camera.
In a video shown to jurors, Richard and Miller each are seen accepting envelopes filled with cash, and the men can also be heard discussing a plan to vote to bump up Cassimere’s superintendent’s salary to cover the cost of the bribe.
FBI agent Pamela McCarthy testified that when she confronted Richard in the Quarter’s parking lot after the payoff, the board member told her that he had planned to use the money for new tires and rims for his Corvette.
Richard’s attorney — his son, Quincy Richard Jr. — argued at trial that his father had never directly asked Cassimere for a bribe and believed the cash-filled envelope that Cassimere had given him might have been official School Board correspondence.
Prosecutor Howard Parker told jurors in closing arguments that even if Richard never specifically asked for the money at the Sept. 24 meeting, the recording captured comments about the envelopes containing “fifties” and “hundreds” and Richard can be heard on tape discussing the strategy to inflate Cassimere’s salary to recoup the bribe.
“It should be, in the exercise of your common sense, abundantly clear what happened here,” Parker told jurors.
Cassimere, a longtime school system administrator, was one of five candidates for superintendent.
He ultimately lost his bid for the post, and U.S. District Judge Richard Haik publicly commended Cassimere after the verdict was read for reporting the bribery attempt to federal authorities — a decision the judge said likely cost him the superintendent’s job.
“He decided to do the thing that a man of character does,” Haik said.
Miller resigned from the School Board earlier this year as a condition of his guilty plea, but Richard has remained on the board and even cast a vote against Cassimere when the board selected new school Superintendent Edward Brown in May.
Richard was convicted on three related but separate charges under federal bribery laws, one carrying up to five years in prison and the other two up to 10 years in prison.
No sentencing date has been set, and Haik allowed him to remain free pending sentencing.
“Quincy Richard was thinking about himself, not about the children, the community or the school system,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said in a statement.
“... This is a great step for the School Board. I hope they can now move forward and take care of the education work that needs to be addressed for the people of Opelousas.”
Louisiana law requires that Richard step down from his School Board seat for the felony conviction, but it is unclear whether he will voluntarily do so because he is already fighting removal for a prior conviction in an unrelated case involving a filing false records charge from 2004.
The charge stemmed from an investigation into the buying of grades and degrees at Southern University.
Richard was a School Board member at the time of his 2004 conviction and stepped down as part of his plea agreement. But he regained the School Board seat in a 2006 election and was re-elected in 2010.
Richard’s 2004 conviction did not emerge as an issue until St. Landry Parish District Attorney Earl Taylor filed a petition to remove Richard earlier this year after someone filed a complaint questioning whether he could legally hold office as a convicted felon.
Convicted felons are generally prohibited from holding office, but the enforcement of that constitutional prohibition depends on someone formally challenging a candidate.
A state judge in June ruled that Richard should step down because of the 2004 conviction, but he has been allowed to keep the post pending an appeal.
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