Bribery scandal an issue in Lafayette election

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LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - In a letter mailed to residents, the District Attorney for Lafayette, Vermilion and Acadia parishes apologizes for the involvement of three of his employees in a bribery scheme.

The Lafayette Advertiser reports (http://bit.ly/1sgYhoc ) that the scheme was exposed in 2012. It centered on a process called “immediate 894.” The process enabled people in some criminal cases to complete punishments, such as community service work, before they were sentenced. That meant they could clear their record more quickly.

In the March 31 letter, 15th Judicial District Attorney Mike Harson said investigators found he had no knowledge of or involvement in the scheme.

Retired Assistant District Attorney Keith Stutes is Harson’s only announced opponent in the Nov. 4 election. He issued a statement saying the investigation brought shame and embarrassment to the office.

“I demanded an explanation in 2012 from the District Attorney for the never heard of ‘immediate 894’ process, on behalf of all of us,” Stutes wrote. “The program, personally created by him, was the object of a federal investigation, which resulted in the convictions of three employees.

“The investigation and its results brought shame and embarrassment to the office,” Stutes wrote. “We did not receive an explanation, nor a response, much less an apology.”

The scheme involved an assistant district attorney, a secretary and Harson’s long-time administrative assistant.

Harson declined comment when contacted by the newspaper about the letter, which noted the pending election.

“We all realize this is an election year and some with political and personal agendas will place politics above the truth if it serves their purpose,” Harson’s letter said.

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Information from: The Advertiser, http://www.theadvertiser.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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