Update: LSU repairs holes in bathroom stalls after obscenity arrest leads Walker city prosecutor to resign _lowres

Michael Cupit

The Walker city prosecutor arrested Friday on allegations he was seeking sexual favors in an LSU restroom resigned from city employment over the weekend.

Michael Cupit, 60, was booked on a count of obscenity Friday after he exposed himself through a hole in a restroom stall wall in Tureaud Hall and asked the man in the adjacent stall for oral sex, according to the LSU police report.

Cupit had been banned from the building in 2011 after a similar incident, according to police.

But without an arrest in the prior incident, two background checks the city ran on Cupit for employment purposes both came back clean, Mayor Rick Ramsey said Monday.

The Walker Police Department ran the first background check on Cupit as a matter of routine, before his initial appointment as the city’s part-time prosecutor and attorney in January 2014, Ramsey said.

But the second check — after Cupit’s job converted to a full-time position in August 2015 — was prompted by a Walker resident’s call to Ramsey about a lawsuit involving Cupit and a Mississippi woman’s estate, Ramsey said.

The case revolved around the relationship between Cupit and a woman 55 years his senior, widowed and childless and living in an antebellum home sitting on 205 acres her family had owned for more than a century, just outside Liberty, Mississippi.

According to court records, Cupit first met Mary Lea Reid in 1979, the summer before he entered law school, when he stopped by her property to learn more about the place where his maternal grandparents had sharecropped during the Great Depression.

Cupit visited Reid multiple times over the next few years, performing odd jobs for her while she shared stories about the area’s history.

By the time Cupit graduated from law school in 1982, Reid had deeded him the property and written the first of two wills leaving him all of her belongings. Four years later, she adopted him.

After Reid died in 1997, a distant heir became administrator of her estate and sued Cupit, alleging he had carried on “some sort of intimate relationship” with her and used that relationship to defraud her of the property.

Cupit steadfastly denied the allegations, but in 2002, the Mississippi State Supreme Court nullified the deed, wills and adoption, citing Cupit’s “undue influence” on Reid.

The following year, Cupit was indicted by a Mississippi grand jury on a related count of removing from the state personal property subject to a lien. He avoided trial on the charge in August 2005 by agreeing to pay $140,000 in restitution, according to news reports at the time.

That information, too, was missing from the city’s background check on Cupit, Ramsey said.

“We did more than our due diligence on it,” Ramsey said. “But it’s real hard to convict somebody if you’re not familiar with situation and the people involved and there’s no conviction in court or hard proof of any wrongdoing.”

Ramsey said if city officials had known about the 2011 incident at LSU, they would not have hired him.

“It’s an unfortunate incident,” Ramsey said. “The city will move forward and we look forward to the next attorney that will represent the city. We have to move past this.”

Cupit was released from the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on $4,000 bond Saturday, online booking records show.

Cupit then called Ramsey and apologized, the mayor said.

“He said he had promised me he would never do anything to embarrass the city, and now look what he had done,” Ramsey said. “He said he wanted to come in and clean out his desk.”

Later that afternoon, under the mayor’s supervision, Cupit cleared his office and submitted a letter of resignation.

The letter is short and to the point: Cupit resigned, effective immediately, and asked that his retirement and unused annual leave be mailed to him.

Attempts to reach Cupit for comment Monday were unsuccessful.

Cupit’s resignation allowed the City Council to avoid discussing the matter at its regularly scheduled meeting Monday night.

After the meeting, Ramsey confirmed the city will begin advertising for the job Tuesday, with hopes of having the position filled within 30 days. At least five lawyers already had expressed interest, he said.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen and call her at (225) 336-6981.