GONZALES — In an unusual move for a criminal defendant, Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa asked a state district judge Friday to move up the date for his expected bribery trial by two months, from March to January.
Matassa, who, with a co-defendant, is facing an election bribery charge over last year's Gonzales City Council election, was set for a jury trial March 13 after a district judge rejected attempts last month to throw out the case before trial.
Defense attorney Lewis Unglesby wrote to Judge Jason Verdigets of the 23rd Judicial District Friday that he has conflicting trial dates in March and April, as he previously informed the court, and was filing the motion to reschedule as the court had previously suggested.
"The accused wants this matter concluded as soon as possible," Unglesby wrote in a motion filed Friday at the Parish Courthouse Annex in Gonzales.
"This case can be tried within two weeks and the accused can start anytime in January," Unglesby added of his client.
It was not clear Friday whether Verdigets had ruled on the request.
Matassa and his co-defendant, lifelong friend and businessman Olin Berthelot, were caught on tape in late July 2016 talking to then-recently qualified Gonzales City Council candidate A. Wayne Lawson about stepping down from the fall election against incumbent City Councilman Neal Bourque.
During those series of conversations, the men also discussed paying $1,200 to convert Lawson's trailer into a food concession trailer and Lawson getting a parish job.
Shortly after the secret recordings were made by Lawson, he and a local website publisher who helped him make the recordings accused the men of attempted bribery. In March 2017, the grand jury indicted the men on election bribery counts. The state Attorney General's Office is prosecuting the case.
Matassa and his attorneys have said the offer of money was a loan for an old friend, and the loan and job offer were unrelated to the political advice to drop out of the election. He and Berthelot have pleaded not guilty to the charge.
GONZALES — Defense attorneys for Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa and a local businessman have long claimed the stink of politics hang…
In addition to the trial date, Verdigets set a Dec. 11 deadline last month for guilty pleas from Matassa or Berthelot, but Unglesby said Friday that his client has no plan to take a plea or resign from office.
Unglesby wrote to Verdigets Friday that he has been unable to reach the Attorney General's Office about the trial date. Ruth Wisher, a spokeswoman for the office, declined comment Friday.
"As is always the case, we will not comment on the process of this ongoing prosecution," Wisher said.
Steven Moore, defense attorney for Berthelot, could not be reached for comment Friday.