LIVINGSTON — A state court judge ruled Friday that prosecutors could move forward with criminal charges against former parish contractor Corey delaHoussaye, but they cannot use any evidence obtained through the state Inspector General’s Office.
The IG had no authority to investigate delaHoussaye’s firm because his contract was with Livingston Parish, not a state agency, Judge Brenda Ricks, of the 21st Judicial District Court, wrote in her written reasons granting delaHoussaye’s motion to suppress the evidence.
Ricks also ruled that state law does not grant the IG authority to obtain search warrants and that its subpoenas in this case were granted without the legally required written decisions supporting their issuance.
Inspector General Stephen Street said late Friday that he “could not more vehemently disagree” with the ruling.
“It flies in the face of what many, many other judges have held concerning our office’s authority,” Street said. “I’m sure that decision will be subject to some review.”
The decision leaves most, if not all, of the charges against delaHoussaye unsupportable at trial, as the criminal case was based on the IG’s investigation into delaHoussaye’s billing for work performed after Hurricane Gustav.
Prosecutors claim delaHoussaye billed the parish for working hours he actually spent playing golf, going to the gym and getting cosmetic treatments at a Baton Rouge clinic. They said the case was based on about $25,000 worth of overbilling out of the more than $2.2 million in invoices delaHoussaye’s company, C-Del Inc., submitted to the parish.
The Livingston Parish Council recently paid delaHoussaye $325,000 to settle a pair of lawsuits he filed over payment of his final invoice of $379,000.
DelaHoussaye’s gym and medical records were the subjects of a series of subpoenas the IG obtained through the 19th Judicial District Court. The golf records, however, appear to have come from attorneys representing the parish’s former debris removal contractor, International Equipment Distributors, who gathered that information as part of the company’s now-dormant lawsuit against the parish for unpaid Gustav cleanup costs.
District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said Friday that he had not yet seen the ruling but would review it with Assistant District Attorney Greg Murphy, who is prosecuting the case, and decide whether to appeal the court’s decision.
Perrilloux said he was uncertain how many of the charges were based on information obtained through the IG’s Office.
DelaHoussaye’s attorney, John McLindon, said he believes all of the district attorney’s evidence came through the IG’s Office in one way or another.
“To my knowledge, everything produced to me in pre-trial discovery by the DA was acquired by the IG,” McLindon said.
DelaHoussaye said the golf records may have been gathered initially by IED’s attorneys, but those records flowed through the IG’s Office before going to the DA.
“Those charges would not have been brought against me but for the actions of (OIG investigator) Jessica Webb, who testified she obtained those records through (parish legal adviser) Christopher Moody,” delaHoussaye said. “Whether she used subpoena power to obtain them or not, they were part of her investigation, which she had no authority to conduct.”
Ricks also ruled that the IG lacks the legal authority to request search warrants, like the one used to seize 42 electronic devices from delaHoussaye’s home in July 2013.
Ricks said state law lists the specific powers granted to the IG, and search warrants are not among them. Ricks said that in other IG investigations, the search warrants were obtained by other law enforcement agencies.
Ricks said the IG’s subpoenas in the delaHoussaye investigation were erroneously issued by 19th Judicial District Court judges, who did not give separate written decisions for granting the officers’ requests.
Murphy, the assistant district attorney, had pointed out during an April 20 hearing that Ricks had similarly signed an IG subpoena request in 2011 without issuing a separate written decision.
In her ruling Friday, Ricks did not mention that 2011 subpoena, but she wrote, “Obviously the officers who presented the search warrants and subpoenas in the past did not inform the judges that these documents do not fall within the usual statutes seen by the court, and that special instructions need to be followed pursuant to this seldom used statute.”
In the same ruling, Ricks denied delaHoussaye’s request to quash the 54 counts of falsifying public records and five counts of theft against him. Ricks said she was not persuaded by McLindon’s argument that the charges were not specific enough for him to properly defend his client. But she said prosecutors would be required to provide additional details for each count.
DelaHoussaye said he hopes the ruling will put an end to the case.
“This decision was best not only for me and my family but also for the taxpaying citizens of Louisiana,” delaHoussaye said. “I believe Stephen Street needs to explain to the public how his office has abused the legal system, in my case especially, to intimidate a federal witness rather than going after those who committed the true crimes against the state.”
Street said, “Obviously, that’s not true.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, or call her at (225) 336-6981.