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Lead Prosecutor Hugo Holland.

Rick Hickman

A New Orleans attorney on Thursday asked state officials to open a "payroll fraud" investigation into Hugo A. Holland, one of the most influential prosecutors in Louisiana, accusing the outspoken death penalty proponent of breaking the law by claiming to work full-time in multiple judicial districts.

The attorney, Nicholas Trenticosta, forwarded a dossier on Holland to the state Legislative Auditor's Office, saying that the prosecutor holds so many state-paid positions "that it would be impossible for him to have performed the duties for which he was being paid."

The complaint says Holland, a so-called circuit rider who specializes in capital punishment cases, has been paid by at least 10 different parishes over the past three years to prosecute cases while also receiving a state salary, known as a warrant, to work as an assistant district attorney in Lake Charles.

He also runs the Webster Parish division of the 26th Judicial District Attorney's Office, in northwest Louisiana, where he screens felony cases and is expected to appear in court twice a week. 

"Mr. Holland has been paid the statutorily set amount of $45,000 a year of public money to serve as a full-time prosecutor for the state of Louisiana and has then billed the public fisc another $150,000 or more a year to be a prosecutor" in a host of parishes, Trenticosta wrote. 

He said that Holland, who frequently testifies before the Legislature, also has violated the law by serving as an unregistered lobbyist on behalf of state prosecutors. 

Holland denied the allegations in an email, insisting the position of assistant district attorney is considered to be a part-time job under Louisiana law. He told The Advocate in an interview earlier this year that he holds commissions from 18 Louisiana district attorneys, often flying around the state in a four-seat RV-10 to prosecute high-profile cases in largely rural parishes. 

"An individual may hold as many part-time appointed positions as he or she desires," Holland wrote. "I can be a commissioned ADA in all 42 jurisdictions if I so desire and if the DA's in those jurisdictions approve." 

He also said that it was "horse**** to claim I am a paid lobbyist," adding, "I simply don't fit the definition." 

"I defy any of these (expletives) to produce a shred of evidence that I have 'double billed' or 'double dipped,' " Holland said.  

Trenticosta's claims echo those made in recent years by several capital defense attorneys who have accused Holland of bending the rules in his zeal to secure death sentences.

One of them, G. Ben Cohen, an attorney with the Promise of Justice Initiative, told the Washington Post recently that Holland "captures everything that’s wrong with the criminal-justice system in Louisiana."

The Post article referred to Holland as "the most powerful law enforcement official in Louisiana."  

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.