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Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa at a meeting of the Ascension Parish council, Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Gonzales, La.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

GONZALES - A state judge on Wednesday denied a motion by an attorney for Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa to have his indictment on attempted election bribery thrown out.

The decision by 23rd Judicial District Judge Jason Verdigets allows the prosecution of Matassa to go forward. Matassa's trial date has been set for March 13.

Last month, Matassa asked a state district court to throw out his charge, arguing that the man he is accused of trying to bribe to drop out of a race, A. Wayne Lawson, wasn't qualified to be on the ballot as a candidate in the 2016 Gonzales City Council race. 

The state Attorney General's Office has argued in court filings responding to the defense motion that it was without merit and should be denied.

"All of this information will come out at the trial," Judge Jason Verdigets of the 23rd Judicial District Court said Wednesday in denying defense attorney Lewis Unglesby's motion to quash Matassa's indictment.

"I believe these are all issues to be brought before the jury," Verdigets added.

Gonzales businessman Olin Berthelot has also been charged, along with Matassa, of trying to bribe Lawson to stay out of a race that was ultimately won by incumbent City Councilman Neal Bourque.  

Both Matassa and Berthelot have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In court papers asking the judge to throw out the indictment of Matassa, Unglesby pointed out that Lawson owed fees for filing campaign finance reports late from previous campaigns, in 1999 and 2003, and that Lawson had not lived in Gonzales within a year of qualifying for last year's race. 

Those factors meant that he was not qualified to run for the City Council, Matassa's lawyer argued. 

In a memorandum issued last month, State Attorney General Jeff Landry said that Lawson had properly filed a notice of candidacy and that "all challenges to a candidate's qualifications must be made ... within seven days after the the close of qualifications for candidates."

"No challenge was ever filed," Landry wrote. 

Verdigets on Wednesday also set the cut-off date for a guilty plea by the defendants of Dec. 11. 

Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.