Port Allen Police Chief Fred Smith was convicted Thursday in Baton Rouge on 11 federal charges of racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud and use of a telephone in aid of racketeering.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey R. Amundson immediately asked Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson to order Smith, 40, to leave his elective office.
“I will give you 24 hours to make those arrangements to resign,” Jackson told Smith.
The judge also ordered Smith to turn over all his firearms to federal investigators.
Jackson scheduled Smith’s sentencing hearing for Jan. 19.
U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said after the verdict was announced: “This case is particularly disturbing, given that the defendant is a chief of police.”
Smith’s “actions threaten to overshadow the honest work and dedication by the vast majority of law enforcement officers, including the many honorable and fine members of the Port Allen Police Department,” Cazayoux added in his written statement.
Outside the courthouse, Smith said his effort to overcome his indictment is not over.
“This is definitely not the end,” Smith said.
His attorney, J. David Bourland, said the case will be taken to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The primary reason for the appeal, Bourland said, “is the entrapment issue.”
Jackson ruled after the close of testimony Wednesday that Bourland could not ask the jury of four women and eight men for an acquittal on his allegation that undercover FBI investigators improperly entrapped Smith.
“This is very, very disappointing for me and my family,” Smith said outside the courthouse.
At his home two hours later, Smith confirmed he already had resigned.
“I just want the people to know that I never compromised my duties as police chief, and I always put the citizens first,” Smith said.
“I never thought he’d do this,” West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Mike Cazes said of Smith. “When he ran for police chief, I supported him. I thought he could turn that department around. I thought he could do a lot for the city.”
“It hurts me in my heart,” Mayor R.J. Loupe Jr. said of Smith’s conviction.
City Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence was Smith’s fifth-grade teacher.
“I love him like another child of mine,” Lawrence said. “It’s just too devastating to talk about.”
Earlier Thursday, Amundson and Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Patricia Jones told jurors during final arguments that Smith essentially convicted himself in audio and video recordings made during an undercover FBI investigation.
The same undercover investigation, dubbed Operation Blighted Officials, snared six other public officials.
Convictions were won earlier against former New Roads Mayor Tommy Nelson, former White Castle Mayor Maurice Brown, former Port Allen Mayor Derek Lewis and former Port Allen Councilman Johnny L. Johnson Sr.
Brown was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
The other men have not yet been sentenced.
White Castle Police Chief Mario Brown was acquitted on all charges in the same trial that resulted in the conviction of his brother, the former mayor.
Former St. Gabriel Mayor George Grace is scheduled for trial in January.
Charges against all of the men resulted from assistance they provided to executives of a garbage-can sanitizing service known as Cifer 5000.
Cifer 5000 was a fictional firm, and its executives were undercover FBI investigators, who offered bribes in return for promises of municipal contracts and other assistance.
Smith accepted about $4,000 in cash, NBA game tickets, and other gifts from Cifer 5000 executive William Myles, Jones told jurors Thursday.
In return, Jones said, Smith used confidential law enforcement databases to obtain information about people whose names were supplied by Myles.
The police chief also fixed traffic tickets for Myles, gave him police badges and wrote a letter to Connecticut officials from whom he sought lenient treatment for a drug defendant he did not know, Jones said.
Bourland argued that Myles manufactured all crimes alleged against Smith.
“I call it a fable because it’s such a deception,” Bourland said of the government’s case.
“There was no crime here … until Temptation (Myles) brought it to him (Smith),” Bourland argued.
“Chief Smith wanted no financial reward for anything he did,” Bourland added.
Those arguments, Amundson told jurors, were “absolutely ridiculous.”
Amundson added: “This is not about a good Samaritan.”
David Welker, special agent in charge of the FBI’s New Orleans office, said after the verdict: “Chief Smith forgot … his oath to uphold the laws of the state.
“His conviction is a clear indication that the people of Louisiana have said, ‘enough corruption … we will no longer tolerate it,’ ” Welker said.