Financial case charges delayed

The district attorney for East and West Feliciana parishes said he has not filed formal charges against two Clinton women accused of mishandling public funds because he did not receive police reports on the investigation until Tuesday.

Clinton police arrested Carol M. Shirley, 66, and Alice B. Kent, 62, on Nov. 9, accusing Shirley, with Kent’s help, of using state-appropriated money for her personal use.

District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla said the two, who were released on bail, were supposed to be arraigned before 20th Judicial District Judge George H. Ware Jr. on Tuesday, but they had not been formally charged through bills of information or a grand jury indictment.

“I didn’t file any charges because I didn’t know exactly what to charge them with,” D’Aquilla said.

“When I got back from court, I found about 6 inches of paperwork on my desk,” the district attorney said.

Kent’s attorney requested a preliminary examination in the case, but D’Aquilla said he submitted the cases to the court without calling any witnesses who could persuade the judge to continue holding the defendants on bail.

As a result, Ware released both women from their bond obligations.

When a defendant is out of jail on bail and not considered a flight risk, D’Aquilla said, it is not unusual to address a preliminary examination motion in that manner.

Contrary to news reports, “all charges” were not dropped, because no charges had been filed, D’Aquilla said.

Now that the Clinton Police Department has submitted its reports, D’Aquilla said, he will go through them in the next several weeks and decide whether to prosecute the pair.

Clinton Police Chief Eddie Stewart said he turned over the reports to D’Aquilla’s office Tuesday. Clinton police booked Shirley on one count each of racketeering, felony theft and malfeasance in office, 196 counts of money laundering, 15 counts of filing false public records and six counts of contract fraud.

Shirley was Main Street manager for Clinton, in charge of a program designed to promote the historic preservation and economic redevelopment of Clinton’s old commercial district.

Kent was treasurer of Friends of Clinton Main Street, a nonprofit group aligned with the Main Street program.

Kent was booked as a principal to malfeasance in office, principal to six counts of public contract fraud, principal to 15 counts of filing false public records, 196 counts of money laundering and one count each of racketeering and felony theft.

The two were arrested three days after the Nov. 6 election, in which Alderwoman Lori Ann Bell forced Mayor Don Reason into a Dec. 8 runoff that Bell won.

Harold Atkins, an attorney who represented Shirley while she was being booked, called the arrests “small-town politics at its worst.”