A former Knight Oil Tools employee jailed Friday was Mark Knight’s “henchman,” a loyal soldier who answered only to Knight and carried out his boss’s June order to plant illegal drugs on a vehicle driven by Knight’s brother, Bryan, an arrest report says. At the time, the Knight family was embroiled in a contentious battle over the family business.
The affidavit, released Friday, accuses 47-year-old Russell Manuel of criminal conspiracy, possession of cocaine, possession of Lortab, possession of methadone, extortion and intimidating a witness. Manuel was booked into jail Friday. Bail was set at $100,000.
Mark Knight, the eldest child of Knight Oil Tools founder Eddy Knight, was accused last weekend by State Police and the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office of arranging the drug bust of his younger brother. Mark Knight, one of four men arrested in the case, was booked Tuesday on one count of racketeering.
The arrest affidavit for Manuel provides details that were not included in the reports used in the arrests of Mark Knight and two law officers last week. The officers accused of accepting cash and gifts for aiding in the frame-up were identified as State Trooper Corey Jackson and Lafayette Parish sheriff’s Deputy Jason Kinch, who was part of the Metro Narcotics Drug Task Force.
The additional details include Manuel’s attempt at intimidating another Knight Oil Tools employee, who eventually turned Manuel in. The affidavit alleges Manuel threatened to harm the employee and his family if he contacted police.
Sheriff’s Capt. Kip Judice in March started looking into the case, according to the affidavit, which states Manuel worked at Mark Knight’s behest to “discredit Bryan Knight” by arranging to have him arrested on drug charges during serious negotiations concerning Knight Oil Tools.
Bryan Knight was arrested on West Bayou Parkway on June 4 at about 5:45 p.m. after Manuel tipped off police. However, police say, Manuel had planted drugs on Bryan Knight’s vehicle.
“This arrest occurred as Bryan Knight was leaving his attorney’s office while in mediation over ownership rights at Knight Oil Tools,” Judice says in the affidavit.
“The vehicle stop that led to the discovery of these drugs was based on several anonymous phone calls placed to the Lafayette Metro Narcotics Task Force,” Judice wrote, adding that the tipster told police that Bryan Knight, who was parked at an office on Coolidge Street in Lafayette’s Oil Center, kept leaving the office to retrieve drugs under his vehicle before returning to the office.
The arresting officer found cocaine, methadone and prescription pills in two containers attached with a magnetic strip to the underside of Bryan Knight’s car.
“It appeared highly unlikely that if Bryan Knight was the person responsible for the drug possession, that he would use this concealment method, meaning he would have to crawl under his car every time he wanted a pill or some cocaine,” Judice wrote.
The prosecutor assigned to the case, Assistant 15th District Attorney Richard Weimer, declined to charge Bryan Knight.
In March, Judice received information about Manuel’s relationship with Mark Knight, who by then had been relieved of his president and chief executive duties.
An employee, whose name was blacked out in the affidavit, told Judice that “in 2014 Manuel approached him and indicated that Mark Knight had authorized the purchase and utilization of a tracking device for a company vehicle and that (the employee) was to purchase a device capable of tracking a vehicle’s movements,” the document states.
The tracking device was later installed on Bryan Knight’s Cadillac.
Manuel also told the employee that a state trooper and a metro narcotics agent had been recruited for the “operation” against Bryan Knight, the affidavit says.
On March 6, Manuel was laid off from Knight Oil Tools. He told the employee to keep quiet about what had happened, then started following the man. At one point, Manuel knocked on the employee’s car window at a stop light at Pinhook and Verot School roads and dropped a note inside that threatened the lives of the man’s wife and child, the arrest report says.
Judice said Manuel’s threats against the employee escalated after Judice informed Manuel that detectives wanted to interview him.
Mark Knight stepped down as president and chief executive of Knight Oil Tools in January. On Thursday, Mark Knight relinquished his duties as chairman of the board, according to a statement sent out Friday by the company.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was modified on April 23, 2015, to correct the spelling of Russell Manuel.