Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle avoided being held in contempt of court Tuesday though she came “precipitously close” to that sanction, state Judge Tim Kelley said during a court hearing.
Attorney Wade Shows argued that Marcelle tried to intimidate a witness in an ongoing public records lawsuit between the city-parish Metro Council and his client, fired parish attorney Mary Roper. Marcelle was accused of trying to influence the testimony of Sheriff’s Office Deputy Craig Landry, her longtime pal who served the subpoena to the councilwoman to appear in court.
Kelley, a judge on the 19th Judicial District Court, imposed a sequestration order on the first day of the public records trial in early December, telling each witness in the case that he was under court order not to discuss the case with anyone other than his attorneys.
Shows subpoenaed Landry and other sheriff’s deputies on the first day of the trial to explain how difficult it was to serve Marcelle, among other council members, with subpoenas. Landry testified Tuesday that Marcelle made him feel uneasy on Dec. 4, the first day of the trial, when she told him in the courthouse hallway that he was no longer her friend and that the lawsuit was a waste of taxpayer money.
Marcelle said she did not remember having that conversation. She added that she and Landry never discussed any facts of the case.
Landry also said Tuesday that he knew he had an obligation to be truthful in his testimony, regardless of his friendship with Marcelle and what she said to him.
While he said their hallway conversation bothered him, he was firm that Marcelle did not influence his testimony and that the confrontation did not intimidate him into changing his statements.
Kelley said Landry has integrity and called him credible and candid. He said Marcelle “dodged a bullet” by not being punished for her actions.
Still, he said, he was disturbed by what he heard and instructed Shows and Jennifer Sims, who was representing the city-parish, to have serious conversations with their clients about the importance of not discussing the case outside of court.
Kelley postponed the public records lawsuit in December in light of hacking allegations against Roper, which are being investigated by law enforcement. The trial will likely continue around the end of January.