- Associated Press - Thursday, July 17, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A former Gretna City Council member serving 17 years for extorting cash from his constituents has persuaded a federal judge to hear his arguments that he was offered a plea deal with a lesser prison sentence.

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports (https://bit.ly/1oDbjJ1) U.S. District Judge Lance Africk has set an Aug. 14 evidentiary hearing in a case involving Jonathan Bolar.

Prosecutors said Bolar used his political office to shake down constituents in exchange for his support of their zoning variances. He also twice sold property he didn’t own.

He was convicted on 13 counts, including extortion, wire fraud, failing to file income tax returns and other crimes. Incarcerated at the Oakdale Federal Detention Center, Bolar is scheduled for release in January 2025.

In December, Bolar asked Africk to cancel his sentence, on grounds that he received ineffective legal representation and prosecutorial misconduct.

Bolar said if he had pleaded guilty to two of 13 charges, he would have received a 12- to 18-month sentence for failure to file taxes and wire fraud. But he said defense attorney Marion Floyd told him not to take the deal, because federal prosecutors could not prove their case.

Floyd allegedly told Bolar that if he was convicted at trial, he faced, at worse, 40 to 44 months in prison.

“Had Mr. Marion Dean Floyd properly advised me of my sentencing exposure, I would have pled guilty instead of going to trial,” Bolar wrote in court documents.

At his 2010 sentencing, probation officers recommended 10 to 12½ years in prison. But Africk went beyond that, citing Bolar’s “pattern of deceit and immoral behavior.”

In affidavits, Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Harper Jr. and Floyd said no plea deal was ever offered.

“I never mentioned any plea deal to Mr. Bolar because there was none,’” Floyd wrote.

Bolar also argued his sentence should be thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct, referencing the online commenting scandal in former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office. Bolar said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann “blogged” about his case, gleaning information from her husband, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Mann, head of the financial crimes division in the U.S. attorney’s office.

But Africk denied the assertion, saying Bolar provided no evidence of wrongdoing or did not show how it affected the jury’s impartiality or verdict.


Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com

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