GONZALES — Prosecutors in Ascension Parish said they are working "as diligently as possible" to provide federal grand jury transcripts and investigative materials to defense attorneys in a state criminal case against Sorrento Councilman Randy Anny and Roy Maughan Jr. that may help prove their innocence.
Those materials were part of a federal public corruption probe that never led to charges on the federal level.
On Monday, Judge Thomas Kliebert Jr. of the state 23rd Judicial District ordered prosecutors to either turn over the federal materials for exculpatory evidence or to issue a certified statement that there is no evidence to produce.
Though Anny was not indicted by a federal grand jury as a result of the probe, the Ascension Parish grand jury in June indicted him and Maughan, his former personal attorney, on forgery and theft counts over allegations they pocketed $77,500 in a town sewer job from mid-2012. Anny was also indicted on malfeasance in office and prohibited profit-splitting counts.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Anny remains in office.
Sorrento councilman Randy Anny and his attorney, Roy Maughan Jr., pleaded not guilty Thursda…
Tyler Cavalier, spokesman for District Attorney Ricky Babin, said he does not know how long it will take to provide the materials.
"All I know is it has to be produced, and we're going to be working as diligently as possible to produce it," Cavalier said Wednesday.
Kliebert set a hearing to review the records for 9 a.m. July 24.
The defense attorneys for Maughan and Anny noted that the District Attorney's Office had been provided records from the joint FBI-Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office probe, including normally secret federal grand jury transcripts.
Maughan's attorneys argued in court papers filed March 30 that because the joint probe never led to a federal grand jury indictment, despite grand jury witness testimony and subpoenas for bank and other records, the materials must point to Maughan's innocence.
"It is anticipated that such evidence will ultimately prove favorable to Mr. Maughan because, at a minimum, it will provide the jury with an explanation and a broader context for the charged offenses," defense attorneys L.J. Hymel and Michael Reese Davis wrote.
Anny's attorney, Vincent "Beazy" Sotile Jr., also adopted a similar argument in court Monday, he said.
Federal grand jury testimony is secret, but Hymel and Davis argued that once the materials were provided to the District Attorney's Office, "the veil of secrecy over the federal grand jury proceedings has been lifted."
The District Attorney's Office uses what is known as open file discovery, turning over its entire file to defendants, and apparently has provided some of the federal records, but the attorneys argued the office had more records, including private bank records.
The defense attorneys had initially offered to have Kliebert review all the records to decide which ones the defense could see, but Sotile said the judge ended up ordering the D.A. to provide all the records.
Though no federal indictment was ever issued, it's not clear what the federal grand jury did or did not determine with respect to the public corruption probe.
Ian Hipwell, a white collar defense attorney who previously worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Baton Rouge, said that, in general, federal prosecutors often won't bring a possible charge forward to the grand jury if prosecutors don't think they can prove the case at trial.
Because of that, Hipwell explained, instances where a federal grand jury have rejected charges, known as a no true bill, are rare.
"In my experience, as an assistant U.S. attorney for 31 years, I think there were only one or two times I remember when a grand jury actually returned a no true bill," he said.
In any case, unlike in state court, documents indicating a federal grand jury issued a no true bill on criminal charges are sealed.
But, Hipwell added, sometimes prosecutors can decide a case is better handled by another jurisdiction because federal charges don't fit the facts of a case as well as state charges would or because federal prosecutors deem it a better use of resources for another entity to handle a case.
Citing federal guidelines, Corey Amundson, acting U.S. attorney in Baton Rouge, declined to comment or even to acknowledge the federal grand jury investigation.
A federal judge disclosed in January 2016 that there were two investigations into Anny: one over accusations of BP fraud and another public corruption investigation the judge termed the "broader investigation."
Anny and his wife were indicted in the BP case but federal prosecutors dropped fraud and conspiracy charges against Anny in October. His wife admitted her husband knew nothing about her plan to defraud the BP oil spill claims fund by falsely claiming his boat had been damaged by the spill. She pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud.
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