Prosecutors appeal judge’s decision on New Roads businessman

The District Attorney’s Office for the 18th Judicial District is seeking to reverse a state District Court judge’s Feb. 3 decision that overturned a New Roads businessman’s conviction by a jury in a money laundering case.

“It’s the quickest appeal we’ve ever filed,” Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton said. “That should speak volumes.”

The DA’s Office filed a notice of appeal to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal on Feb. 4, a day after District Judge James Best acquitted Martin Lemoine.

A jury found Lemoine guilty on Sept. 4, 2013, of money laundering in the amount of $20,001, according to court records.

Best’s decision to set aside the jury’s verdict didn’t sit well with the District Attorney’s Office.

“Now it goes to the 1st Circuit and Best will no longer be able to do anything else with the case,” Clayton said, declining further comment on Best’s ruling.

In his Feb. 3 decision, Best contended the prosecution failed to prove in court “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Lemoine was guilty of the crime he was accused of committing.

Best cited precedent in a 2001 case, State vs. Woods, in his decision to overturn the jury’s guilty verdict, writing: “When the entirety of the evidence, including inadmissible evidence that was erroneously admitted, is insufficient to support the conviction, the accused must be discharged as to that crime.”

Best said this week he could not comment on the case or the ruling.

Lemoine and his wife, Veronica Lemoine, were indicted on a series of charges in 2004 in connection to a fraud investigation by the Union Pacific Railroad.

Lemoine, president of Morel G. Lemoine Distributors, and his wife were accused of “padding” fuel invoices made payable by the railroad to Morel G. Lemoine Distributors.

The company supplied fuel to Union Pacific in the mid-1990s and the alleged violations occurred between 1995 and 1998.

District Attorney Ricky Ward said the case against Veronica Lemoine was later dismissed.

Lemoine’s attorneys defended Best’s ruling, maintaining prosecutors failed to submit enough admissible evidence in court to prove Lemoine had inflated invoices to Union Pacific Railroad.

“In order to launder money you have to first receive it,” Mary Olive Pierson said. “They never proved all the purchases. I don’t know why the state is upset now. The judge has a legal obligation to follow the law. The jury does too but they are not as sophisticated as the court.”

Karl Koch, Lemoine’s second attorney, said, “This really is a civil matter and that’s where it will probably be resolved.”