Port Allen Police Chief Fred Smith initially denied receiving anything of value other than pro basketball tickets from an executive for a garbage-can-cleaning business, FBI Special Agent David Clarke testified Wednesday.
But, when the agent showed Smith a police lieutenant’s badge the chief allegedly sold to the same executive, Clarke recalled, “He said: ‘I’m going to tell you the truth.’ ”
Smith then admitted he accepted thousands of dollars in cash and other gifts in return for assisting the businessman, Clarke told a jury of four women and eight men in the Baton Rouge courtroom of Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson.
Smith’s assistance to the Cifer 5000 executive, Clarke said, included information from confidential law enforcement databases, fixing traffic tickets and provision of two official police badges.
The executive, William Myles, turned out to be an undercover operative for the FBI. And the FBI used the fictional Cifer 5000 to snare seven municipal officials in the Baton Rouge area in a sting that offered bribes for government contracts.
In response to questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey R. Amundson, Clarke said Smith admitted he provided criminal histories from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center to Myles, who was posing as a corrupt executive.
“He (Smith) had done so in return for payment?” asked Amundson.
“Yes,” Clarke said.
Earlier in the trial, Myles testified that Smith also offered to sell him a bulletproof vest, flashing blue car lights, and weapons from the Port Allen Police Department’s evidence room for $3,500.
That exchange did not take place before FBI agents executed search warrants at the Police Department in June 2010.
During questioning by Smith’s attorney, J. David Bourland, Clarke testified the police chief told him he never would have completed that transaction.
Amundson, the prosecutor, then asked whether Smith ever said why he solicited $3,500 from Myles for the police equipment.
“No,” Clarke said.
Prosecutors ended their case Wednesday, and Bourland announced Smith would not testify or call any witnesses.
Bourland then asked Jackson to dismiss the case, arguing that prosecutors failed to provide sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.
Amundson argued there was sufficient evidence for the jury to convict Smith on all counts of his indictment.
Jackson denied Bourland’s motion.
“I find the government has certainly satisfied its burden,” the judge ruled.
Earlier Wednesday, two 911 dispatchers testified they would not have performed several criminal history checks for Smith if they had known he was going to turn the confidential information over to Myles for money.
And Port Allen City Prosecutor Mandie Lucas testified she would not have dismissed a traffic ticket at Smith’s request if she had known the police chief would accept hundreds of dollars in cash from Myles for the favor.
“No sir,’’ Lucas insisted during questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Jefferson.
Lucas acknowledged she is asked on a “regular basis’’ to dismiss or amend traffic tickets. The requests have come from people in the Governor’s Office, state senators, other public officials, business leaders and police, she said.
“I will help whoever asks’’ if the ticket-holder does not have a past history, she added.
The ticket Smith asked Lucas to dismiss in May 2010 was issued to Myles two months earlier. It was for an expired inspection sticker.
Smith made the written request for dismissal on May 4, 2010, and Lucas said she dismissed the ticket the next day.
West Baton Rouge Parish 911 dispatchers Brian Doiron and Catherine Little testified they spoke directly with Smith in regard to criminal background checks he requested on several individuals.
Louisiana State Police criminal records analyst Shelley Scott told Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Patricia Jones there must be an official criminal justice purpose for all background checks run through the National Crime Information Center.
Doiron testified that when Port Allen Police Detective Jeremy Thompson requested criminal history information on four people on Jan. 14, 2010, a valid reason was not provided.
“It’s what the boss (Smith) wants,’’ Thompson said in a recording played for the jury.
Doiron said Smith called him back and said the background checks were for “investigatory stuff.’’ The jury heard that recorded conversation as well.
When Doiron told Smith his explanation still was not sufficient, the chief said the information related to a burglary investigation.
Later that night, Amundson said, Smith turned the information over to Myles at Drago’s restaurant in Metairie and accepted the meal, $300 in cash and a room for the night at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans.
When Amundson asked Doiron if he would have run the criminal history checks knowing Smith would trade them for cash, Doiron replied, “No sir.’’
Little later said he gave the same response to the same question.
Final arguments in the trial are scheduled for Thursday.