L AFAYETTE — The federal trial of a Lafayette private investigator accused of doling out cash and gifts to secure favorable DWI plea deals for his clients has been delayed to June 8.
Robert Williamson was set for trial next month, but U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote agreed to push back the date because Williamson is scheduled for several weeks of radiation treatment following a recent surgery related to cancer, according to minutes from a meeting last week between the judge and attorneys in the case.
It is the fifth time his trial has been set then bumped.
Past delays have been based on concerns about Williamson’s health and to give his attorneys more time to review the piles of evidence in the case, including more than 100 surveillance tapes and interviews with more than 200 potential witnesses.
Federal prosecutors allege Williamson took cash fees from his clients and used some of that money to bribe employees of the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to secure DWI plea deals allowing for a speedy disposition and expungement of the charges.
Five others who were charged in the bribery scandal, including three former employees of the District Attorney’s Office, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating in the case against Williamson.
Federal prosecutors have not said how many plea deals were secured with bribes or how much money changed hands over the four years the alleged scheme ran from 2008 to 2012.
But District Attorney Mike Harson’s longtime office administrator, Barna D. Haynes, admitted when she pleaded guilty to accepting a total of $55,000 to arrange special plea agreements for DWI defendants at Williamson’s request.
Prosecutors contend she accepted more than $70,000 in bribes, according to court filings.
Others in the District Attorney’s Office admitted to smaller cash payments and gifts that included bicycles, clothing and an autographed New Orleans Saints hat.
Harson has not been implicated in the bribery investigation, but it is thought to have been one of the major issues that led to his defeat at the polls Nov. 4 by retired prosecutor Keith Stutes.
The delay of Williamson’s trial in the federal case follows news earlier this month that the state Attorney General’s Office has launched a separate state investigation into the bribery scandal to determine if there were any violations of state law that should be pursued.