Request for new trial is denied

A federal judge Wednesday denied a new trial for a Denham Springs man convicted last year of laundering money for drug dealers.

Visiting U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk, of New Orleans, then ordered Kevin Paul Calmes, 40, to report to federal prison Feb. 5 and begin his 30-month prison term.

In August, Calmes was convicted in Baton Rouge federal court on one count of money laundering, three counts of structuring large cash transactions to avoid mandatory reports to the IRS, and failing to file a report on one cash transaction that exceeded $10,000.

John S. McLindon, Calmes’ attorney, argued at trial that Calmes merely explained federal laws and IRS regulations to customers who wanted to buy motorcycles from Calmes Motorsports LLC in Denham Springs.

But Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rene I. Salomon and Shubhra Shivpuri told jurors that Calmes, as manager of the family-owned business, knowingly helped drug dealers spend their cash while hiding those transactions from federal authorities.

Several weeks ago, McLindon asked Africk to grant Calmes a new trial, arguing that a New Orleans police report, discovered after the trial, showed one prosecution witness told officers his motorcycle was stolen from his home.

The same witness, Stephon Chaney, testified at Calmes’ trial that his brother, convicted drug dealer Luke Matthews, actually owned and used the same motorcycle, which had been purchased from Calmes Motorsports.

Salomon argued that McLindon should have investigated every aspect of Chaney’s involvement in the case before trial.

The prosecutor said he was unaware of the New Orleans police report and asked Africk not to grant Calmes a new trial.

Drug dealers were not the only witnesses against Calmes at trial.

An undercover IRS agent recorded Calmes during negotiations for his purchase of a motorcycle for cash after stating that he sold only marijuana, not more powerful drugs.

Africk, the judge, ruled Wednesday that elimination of Chaney’s testimony would not have resulted in Calmes’ acquittal.

Africk added that Calmes’ request for a new trial “does not raise any substantial questions of law or fact.”