Veteran New Orleans defense attorney Mike Fawer told a Baton Rouge judge Friday he will represent jailed contractor Matthew Morris, who is accused in East Baton Rouge and several other parishes of defrauding victims of the catastrophic 2016 flooding.
Fawer's announcement in state District Judge Tony Marabella's courtroom came two weeks after the judge ruled Morris, 40, of Baton Rouge, is competent to stand trial in East Baton Rouge and could represent himself. Morris did not want to be represented by the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defenders Office.
A jailed Baton Rouge contractor accused of defrauding scores of victims of the unprecedented 2016 flooding in south Louisiana will be examined…
Fawer, whose track record includes the 1986 acquittal of former Gov. Edwin Edwards on federal racketeering and mail fraud charges, told Marabella that lawyer Al Robert Jr. will be his co-counsel.
Morris is charged in East Baton Rouge with four counts of residential contractor fraud and one count of filing or maintaining false public records. He also is charged in dozens of counts in Ascension, Livingston and other parishes.
Fawer said outside Marabella's courtroom that he will represent Morris in each of the parishes where he is charged.
Morris, owner of Complete Construction Contractors, remains in custody and maintains his innocence.
A Baton Rouge contractor accused of defrauding victims of the August flooding in three parishes pleaded not guilty Monday in East Baton Rouge …
In November, Marabella ordered doctors to examine Morris to determine whether he is competent to stand trial and represent himself. The doctors found him competent.
Marabella then ruled earlier this month that Morris could proceed to trial on what the judge called "complex" charges and said Morris intelligently and knowingly waived his right to counsel.
"This court has repeatedly warned the defendant against self-representation's dangers and disadvantages," the judge wrote.
Marabella, in that ruling, relieved the local public defenders office from representing Morris but appointed the office to act as stand-by counsel for him to help him understand the "ground rules."
A jailed Baton Rouge contractor accused in East Baton Rouge and several other parishes of defrauding victims of last summer's catastrophic flo…
The judge on Friday allowed the public defenders office to withdraw from that appointment.
Authorities have said Morris charged homeowners whose houses flooded in August 2016 for work he did not perform, taking most of their insurance proceeds and presenting them with a large final bill to finish the job on their gutted homes. When clients questioned the big bills and terminated their contracts, authorities said, Morris filed liens against their homes for fees and charges the victims had challenged. Morris claimed the disputed fees and charges were legitimate or called for in the contract, law enforcement agencies said.
The liens hindered homeowners' ability to finish restoring their homes. Morris has said he ultimately agreed to lift the property liens he placed against his customers.