Court bribery scandal grows

Fourth person admits role falsifying forms

A probe of bribery in the local court system has expanded to include a former employee of the Acadiana Outreach Center, who admitted in court Tuesday to falsifying certificates that defendants had completed court-mandated community service at the nonprofit group, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Elaine Crump, 59, of Lafayette, a former case manager at Acadiana Outreach Center, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of misprision of a felony for not reporting the scheme she was involved in, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She faces up to three years in prison.

The plea comes after three former employees of the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office pleaded guilty earlier this year in the investigation of bribes paid for favorable treatment in DWI cases.

“Those involved in this bribery scheme have put their own interests above that of the criminal justice system,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said in a news release Tuesday.

District Attorney Mike Harson’s longtime secretary and office administrator, Barna D. Haynes, has pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy.

Haynes, 58, admitted accepting a total of $55,000 over four years, but federal prosecutors contend the amount exceeded $70,000.

Greg Williams, who worked as an assistant district attorney in Harson’s office, and Williams’ secretary, Denease Curry, also have pleaded guilty in the case.

Williams, 44, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for accepting at least one cash payment of $500 and a series of gifts, according to court filings by prosecutors.

Curry, 46, pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony and admitted in court documents to accepting about $1,600 for working with Haynes to coordinate special state court plea agreements that were arranged in return for the bribes.

The plea agreements required defendants to complete court-approved community service.

Prosecutors said Crump’s predecessor at Acadiana Outreach Center, who was not named, had been falsifying certificates stating defendants had done community service at the center, which at the time provided housing and assistance for the homeless and recovering addicts.

After the former case manager left the Acadiana Outreach Center, she asked Crump in 2010 to be allowed to forge the woman’s signature to continue producing the false community service certificates on Acadiana Outreach letterhead, according to prosecutors.

Crump agreed in return for regular cash payments from the former case manager ranging from $25 to $100, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors allege the former case manager was being paid for the falsified certificates by an unnamed third party.

The money for the bribes paid to Haynes, Curry and Williams allegedly flowed from a person who has yet to be charged and who has been identified in prior court filings by prosecutors only as “co-conspirator No. 1.”

That person solicited “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from criminal defendants on promises of getting them special treatment, according to court filings from prosecutors.

Haynes admitted in court documents that, in return for the bribes, she routed criminal defendants into a special program in which their charges were quickly dismissed if they successfully completed certain probation requirements, such as drivers safety classes, substance abuse treatment and community service.

For DWI defendants, the quick resolution of the case through the special program could keep the charge off their insurance and allow for the immediate reinstatement of driving privileges.

Harson has not been implicated in the case, and the bribery scheme was carried out without his knowledge because of a “lack of oversight and safeguards,” according to court filings by prosecutors outlining the allegations in the case.

Finley has declined to comment on how many others have been targeted in the investigation.