LAFAYETTE — A key figure in the federal investigation of bribery in the local court system has been released pending trial with orders to have no contact with any witnesses in the case.
A federal grand jury in February indicted Robert Williamson, 64, of Lafayette, on counts of conspiracy, bribery and making a false statement to a federal agent.
He made an initial appearance on the charges Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna, who allowed Williamson to remain free on a $50,000 unsecured bond, meaning Williamson would not be subject to paying the money unless he fails to make a court appearance.
Hanna also ordered Williamson to surrender his passport and have no contact with witnesses in the case.
Williamson is the sixth person charged in the ongoing federal investigation.
The five others all have pleaded guilty in agreements that call for them to cooperate with federal authorities.
Williamson’s defense attorney, J. Michael Small, said in a recent written statement that he expects the five others to testify against Williamson.
“All of those folks are clearly hoping to lighten their loads by implicating Robert (Williamson) and agreeing to testify against him,” Small said.
Williamson, a private investigator, is accused of helping set up a four-year scheme to bribe District Attorney’s Office employees in return for favorable treatment of criminal defendants, mainly in DWI cases.
He faces up to 10 years in prison on the bribery charges, and prosecutors also have put Williamson on notice that they intend to seek the forfeiture of $22,855 in money orders and cash seized during a search of his home last year.
Williamson is set to be arraigned on the charges April 2.
Prosecutors have declined comment on how many DWI cases were involved in the alleged bribery scheme or how much money allegedly changed hands, other than stating in court documents that Williamson allegedly solicited “thousands of dollars” from defendants on promises of obtaining favorable treatment.
The federal investigation has already brought guilty pleas from three former District Attorney’s Office employees, all accused of accepting cash and gifts to help set up special plea deals for the defendants in state court.
They are Barna D. Haynes, Greg Williams and Denease Curry.
Two former employees of the Acadiana Outreach Center, Sandra Degeyter and Elaine Crump, also have pleaded guilty in connection with certificates that were falsified to show defendants had completed court-mandated community service at the nonprofit agency when they actually had not.