Jury sees video of official taking cash
LAFAYETTE — The bribery trial of St. Landry Parish School Board member Quincy Richard Sr. opened Monday, with jurors viewing a secretly recorded video that shows him pocketing a white envelope stuffed with $5,000 in cash from a candidate for superintendent.
The video was recorded by the FBI in September 2012 at the Quarters Restaurant and Casino in Opelousas, where Richard and fellow board member John Miller were accused of accepting $5,000 each from superintendent candidate Joseph Cassimere in exchange for their votes to give him the job.
The men even discussed a strategy to secure a higher salary for Cassimere to help him recoup the cost of the bribe, said FBI agent Jeff Goins.
“Quincy Richard refers to it as an investment,” said Goins, whose testimony took up the first day of Richard’s federal bribery trial.
The investigation began after Cassimere brought the bribery allegations to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with federal agents.
It culminated with the set-up exchange of money in a booth at the Quarters Restaurant on Sept. 24, 2012, two days before the School Board was to vote on the new superintendent.
Cassimere was outfitted with a small audio recorder to capture his discussions with Miller and Richard, and Goins said he and a female FBI agent sat at a nearby table, where a camera hidden in a cup recorded video of the meeting.
“We posed as husband and wife,” Goins said, adding that additional surveillance equipment was concealed in a baby carriage.
The two board members can be seen leaving the restaurant after accepting the white envelopes filled with cash. FBI agents later confronted them in the parking lot, Goins said.
Richard’s attorney — his son Quincy Richard Jr. — argued that perhaps his father thought the envelope, which bore the return address of the School Board, contained official board correspondence rather than $5,000 in large bills.
“Both of those guys knew money was getting passed that night,” Goins said.
Miller pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge last month in a deal that called for his immediate resignation from the School Board and his cooperation with federal prosecutors.
He is expected to testify against Richard this week.
Cassimere, who was one of five candidates for superintendent, ultimately lost his bid for the post.
Goins said he told Cassimere that agreeing to work with the FBI to investigate two board members would likely end his chances of getting the job.
“Without hesitation he said yes, because it was the right thing to do,” Goins said.
Richard’s bribery trial is scheduled to resume today before U.S. District Judge Richard Haik.
Richard remains on the School Board, but faces removal for a felony conviction in an unrelated case involving a filing false records charge from 2004.
The charge stemmed from an investigation into the buying of grades and degrees at Southern University.
Richard was a School Board member at the time of his 2004 conviction and stepped down as part of his plea agreement. But he regained the School Board seat in a 2006 election and was re-elected in 2010.
Richard’s 2004 conviction did not emerge as an issue until St. Landry Parish District Attorney Earl Taylor filed a petition to remove Richard earlier this year after someone filed a complaint questioning whether he could legally hold office as a convicted felon.
Convicted felons are generally prohibited from holding office, but the enforcement of that constitutional prohibition depends on someone formally challenging a candidate.
A state judge in June ruled that Richard should step down because of the 2004 conviction, but he has been allowed to keep the post pending an appeal.