LIVINGSTON — The disgraced former tax commission administrator and Livingston Parish assessor pleaded no contest Tuesday to a count of first-offense domestic abuse battery.
Charles Abels III, 52, won't face any jail time under a plea deal in which he received a six-month suspended jail sentence, with one-year probation and a requirement that he pay more than $1,000 in fines.
Abels is also required to participate in a six-month domestic violence reduction program under the sentence approved by 21st Judicial District Judge Jeffrey Johnson.
He was also arrested in an unrelated case in East Baton Rouge on counts stemming from a monthslong investigation into alleged payroll fraud while he worked at the tax commission. He has not yet been formally charged in that matter.
In the domestic violence case, Abels was arrested at his home in Killian in March 2018, accused of drunkenly attacking his then-wife. The couple later divorced.
Abels' ex-wife told police he grabbed her out of a chair and threw her on the dining room floor. Their minor child was home at the time, and Abels had also cursed at her, according to court documents.
The ex-wife told police Abels had been abusive in the past, although she had not reported it to law enforcement.
Prosecutors planned to show dental records at trial that indicated he had previously knocked her teeth in. Prosecutors also planned to call the minor daughter to testify.
The Advocate does not typically name victims of domestic violence.
Abels’ attorney, Tim Pujol, said after the hearing that his client entered the no contest plea to save his daughter from having to testify. He said Abels maintains his innocence.
Abels is in the process of moving to Florida for a new job, according to documents filed in 19th Judicial District Court last month.
Abels resigned in February from his job as administrator of the state tax commission following accusations of payroll fraud. Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor conducted investigations showing Abels collected pay for hundreds of hours he actually spent playing golf, shopping, receiving spa treatments and engaging in similar personal activities.
The tax commission has since recouped the $15,288 paid to Abels.
Prior to joining the tax commission, Abels was elected Livingston Parish assessor in 1995. In 1999, he was defeated by the current assessor Jeff Taylor, who made a political issue of a drunken bar fight involving Abels outside a Hammond bar.
Shortly after his defeat, Abels was involved in a drunken driving crash with a vehicle registered to the assessor's office. He initially told law enforcement that his friend, whom he proceeded to hire to work for him, was driving the car. But authorities determined that was false and that Abels was responsible for hitting a stopped vehicle.
Abels ultimately pleaded guilty to drunken driving and hit-and-run charges to avoid being prosecuted for felony obstruction of justice. As a condition of the plea, Abels was required to relinquish his office to Taylor before his term expired.