After months of uncertainty and a continued push from some Ascension residents Parish President Kenny Matassa was indicted by a grand jury on Friday, March 10, 2017.
Gonzales businessman Olin Berthelot was indicted separately. Both men are officially charged with offering a bribe to former candidate for Gonzales City Council, Wayne Lawson. This was said to be done in order to get Lawson to drop out of the council race, last Summer.
"Those indictments were based on a bribery scheme perfected by Mr. Matassa and Mr. Berthelot wherein they attempted to induce a candidate for a city council election to withdraw in exchange for cash and political favors," Brandon J. Fremin, Director of the Criminal Division with the Attorney General said.
Their bonds have been set at $5,000 each. The men now have warrants out for their arrest but will most likely be given a chance to turn themselves in, according to Assistant Attorney General Jeff Traylor, who will also serve as lead prosecutor. They will likely post bond.
The jury began their proceedings at 10:30 a.m., and finished near 3 p.m.
"Attorney General Jeff Landry has on many occasions said that public officials have to be held accountable for their actions," Fremin said. "They must hold themselves to a higher standard. They must be fair, honest and ethical, and that they must follow the law. If that does not happen it undermines the public trust in our system of government, and that is absolutely unacceptable."
Berthelot's lawyer Steven Moore maintains that his client is not guilty. He said particularly that he would like the case to play out in the courtroom.
"I think I should let it play out in the courtrooms," Moore said. "And not in the media, and not in blogs that people have, and just kind of let that ridiculousness go away."
Moore is most likely referring to a July 31 blog posted in the Pelican Post, owned by Wade Petit, who posted a video of the bribe almost as it occurred. And which can still be viewed as of today.
However, both sides maintain that this is just the beginning.
"At the outset, we started this investigation at the request of the locals here," Fremin said. "Following the recusal of attorney Ricky Babin, our attorneys took the lead in the case, brought the case to the grand jury, which culminated in the events for which we're here right now."
The charge carries 0-2 years imprisonment with or without hard labor, or a maximum $2,000 fine, according to Fremin.
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