NEW ROADS — A state district court judge on Tuesday denied all but one pretrial motion filed by defense attorneys for New Roads Mayor Robert Myer, who's facing multiple counts of malfeasance in office and abuse of power for alleged misuse of a city-issued credit card.
Myer's defense team was trying to persuade Judge Elizabeth Engolio to suppress evidence gathered by the state Inspector General's Office's, arguing those investigators overstepped their legal bounds in several instances in building the case against Myer.
New Roads Mayor Robert Myer directed staff to alter notations on credit card statements for …
The mayor's attorneys also argued that some of the charges he faces violate his constitutional protection against double jeopardy. Attorney Victor Woods noted in court that provisions in the counts of malfeasance in office and abuse of power against Myer mirror one another.
And the defense attorneys claim Myer has been unjustly singled out in the investigation into the misuse of city-issued credit cards.
After lengthy arguments between prosecutors and Myer's legal team, Engolio denied three motions but delayed a decision on the defense's double jeopardy arguments.
"This is very complex so I want to take it under advisement," Engolio said in court.
The defense plans to appeal Engolio's decision on the three motions, Steven Moore, another attorney for Myer, said outside the courtroom.
"I'm not sure she understood it properly," Moore said.
Myer was indicted last year on nine counts of malfeasance in office and a count of abuse of power. He is accused of using a city-issued credit card for personal transactions and of allowing the city's former chief financial officer to make more than $9,000 in personal charges on the card in exchange for sexual favors between 2011 and 2014.
The Inspector General's Office also claims that Myer had some of his employees alter credit-card statements for the city-issued credit card and that he hasn't repaid the city for more than $2,000 worth of personal charges he made with the card.
State investigators allege the mayor charged $165,777 on the city's various credit card accounts between Jan. 1, 2011 through Oct. 1, 2014 — of which, more than $11,000 they believe was for personal items. He wrote personal checks totaling $9,527 to the city in what investigators think were reimbursements for personal expenses.
Myer in October pleaded not guilty to the charges. He's called the case against him a conspiracy led by some of his political adversaries.
Moore in court called the Inspector General's Office's partnership with the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff's Office and local prosecutors a "sham joint investigation."
Moore spent much of the hearing trying to prove there's no paper trail showing state investigators were asked to launch their investigation into the city's finances at the request of the sheriff or district attorney.
"The Inspector General's Office is given limited jurisdiction to investigate the executive branch of government," Moore told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Engolio said in court her decision to deny that request was based on testimony Tuesday from officials with the Inspector General's Office claiming they were asked by local authorities to get involved.
Moore is also convinced prosecutors have unjustly targeted the mayor, ignoring other accusations of illegal misconduct by other city officials that were part of the inspector general's investigation — most notably the city's former finance director, Cherie Rockforte-Laviolette, with whom Myer has been accused of having the sexual affair.
"If you look at documents presented by the Office of Inspector General, they claim one individual took over $9,000. That person was never indicted," Moore said. The mayor "is the big fish. What about everybody else? I don't know if they did anything wrong, but if you're going to prosecute one, prosecute all."
The District Attorney's Office had presented a case against Rockforte-Laviolette before the grand jury in August, but it did not reach a decision in her case.
Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton said in an interview Tuesday that Rockforte-Laviolette "is our proverbial star witness in this case, and you sometimes have to go through the devil's disciples to get to the devil."
Myer's trial is scheduled Jan. 16.