WOE IS MOE... Brown pleads not guilty, tossed off primary ballot

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

In two court appearances last week, White Castle Mayor Maurice “Big Moe” Brown pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 13 counts of federal bribery and fraud charges, and, in an unrelated case heard Friday, saw his name stripped from the October 2 open primary ballot.

Brown will appeal to reinstate his re-election bid, his lawyer said.

District Judge Alvin Batiste Jr. sustained the Louisiana Board of Ethics' objection to Brown's candidacy and disqualified Brown from the race. Three other candidates remain on the mayoral ballot.

The ethics board sued to have the mayor removed from the race on grounds that he falsely swore on a candidate's qualification form that he owed no outstanding ethics fines.

Michael Dupree, a senior attorney for the Board of Ethics, and Aaron Brooks, an attorney who is the board's director of investigations, presented evidence showing Brown owes a $3,000 fine for an ethics law violation.

Last October, Brown signed a consent order agreeing to pay the $3,000 fine after the board found he had violated state ethics law by performing $15,000 worth of security services for a White Castle convenience store at a time when the town was purchasing gas from the store. He has made no payments since, the ethics attorneys said.

Brown's lawyer, Bruce Craft of Baton Rouge, attempted to challenge the evidence.

When he argued that the copy of the consent order introduced into court was not certified, the ethics attorneys submitted the original.

Craft also sought to show that employees of Clerk of Court J. G. “Bubbie” Dupont Jr. had not properly witnessed Brown's signature when they notarized his qualification form.

The mayor's attorney also objected when Dupree took the stand to testify that Brown had made no payments on the fine.

Brooks said the ethics employee who was scheduled to testify had had a death in the family, but that Dupree had looked at the data on payments and was prepared to testify.

“It is their burden of proof, and here they are trying to go in and out of the back door trying to get this evidence in,” Craft said.

In each instance, Judge Batiste allowed the evidence.

Citing a 2003 First Circuit Court of Appeal ruling, Craft also argued that the ethics board had a “history of selective prosecution,” and that it had singled Brown out for  “selective disqualification.”

“I am aware of one case,” Dupree said.

Dupree said the ethics staff routinely compares the name of each candidate to make sure they do not owe fines.

Dupree and Brooks later told the POST/SOUTH that, in this election cycle, the board filed five disqualification suits around the state in this election cycle.

Batiste issued a verbal ruling in court Friday, and a brief written ruling on Monday.

Craft told the POST/SOUTH he plans to file an appeal with the First Circuit this week. The appeals court will have three days to act, he said.

Mayor Brown entered his not guilty plea at his arraignment Wednesday in U. S. District Court in Baton Rouge.

A federal grand jury on July 7 indicted Brown and his brother, White Castle Police Chief Mario D. Brown, on 20 counts of violating federal racketeering and fraud laws