(AP) — Former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to conspiracy and theft charges, resolving a corruption case in which federal prosecutors accused him of abusing his office for personal gain.
Broussard’s attorney, Robert Jenkins, told a federal judge Monday that his client intends to plead guilty to two of the 27 counts on which he was indicted.
Jenkins disclosed his client’s intentions only minutes before Broussard’s co-defendant in the case, former parish attorney Thomas Wilkinson, pleaded guilty to a related charge of conspiring to conceal a crime.
A trial for Broussard and Wilkinson was scheduled to start Nov. 5.
Jenkins declined to comment Monday after he and Broussard made their brief court appearance.
“I don’t want to go through it until we finalize what we have to do,” Jenkins said.
Broussard and Wilkinson were charged with conspiring to fraudulently award a lucrative parish job to Broussard’s ex-wife, Karen Parker. Parker had the job title of paralegal supervisor and was paid more than $323,000 over six years though prosecutors say she wasn’t qualified for the position and wasn’t performing paralegal duties.
Parker pleaded guilty in January to misprision of a felony, or concealing a crime, and agreed to cooperate with federal authorities. She is awaiting sentencing.
Wilkinson, 53, faced more serious charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery, before a court filing last week replaced them with a new charge of conspiracy to commit misprision of a felony. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. His sentencing is set for Feb. 25.
U.S. District Judge Hayden Head peppered Wilkinson with questions about his role in the conspiracy, pressing him to explain his actions.
Wilkinson said Broussard and other parish officials met in 2003 to discuss Parker’s hiring. Wilkinson said he knew she wasn’t qualified for the job and was only getting hired because she was dating Broussard.
“Was she in any way a bona fide employee?” Head asked.
“No, sir,” Wilkinson said.
A court filing accompanying Wilkinson’s guilty plea says Broussard approved annual pay raises for Wilkinson until he was paid the maximum amount allowed. Wilkinson, meanwhile, gave Parker annual pay raises he knew she didn’t deserve.
“Did you believe that this scheme would cheat the taxpayers?” Head asked.
“Yes, sir, we did cheat the taxpayers,” Wilkinson said.
Broussard, 62, also was charged with accepting bribes to steer parish work to the owner of a telecommunications equipment and services company. The company’s owner, William Mack, allegedly paid Broussard roughly $66,000 during his time in office in exchange for steering about $40,000 in parish work to Mack’s company.
Mack pleaded guilty in July to conspiring to bribe Broussard.
Broussard would be the fifth person to plead guilty to charges stemming from the corruption probe. Timothy Whitmer, who served as the parish’s chief administrative officer under Broussard, pleaded guilty in March to one count of misprision of a felony.
Prosecutors said Whitmer concealed fraud, theft involving government programs and other unspecified crimes through his role in hiring parish employees, awarding salary increases and contract selection processes.