The chairman of the St. Charles Parish Hospital board, booked this week on several counts of filing false public records, admitted in an interview with the FBI that he prepared bogus community service letters “under the direction” of Harry Morel, the former St. Charles district attorney who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice earlier this year, according to new court records.
The board chairman, John Joseph Landry III, signed letters saying at least three women had completed court-ordered community service at the Luling-Boutte Lions Club, where Landry served as president, according to an arrest warrant released Wednesday. In fact, the women, all charged with DWI, never performed the community service.
The charges against Landry stemmed from a years-old FBI investigation into Morel’s misconduct. The former district attorney is scheduled to be sentenced on the obstruction charge in August.
While he faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison, federal authorities have described Morel as a “sexual predator” who victimized more than 20 women over two decades, trading lenient treatment in court for sexual favors.
The warrant in Landry’s case offered new details on Morel’s alleged sexual advances toward criminal defendants, including Danelle Keim, who had been expected to be the star witness in the federal case against Morel before she died of a drug overdose in 2013. One of the fraudulent community service letters Landry signed was on Keim’s behalf, authorities said.
Landry, 59, of Des Allemands, initially “denied knowledge of any criminal wrongdoing,” according to the warrant, but he later acknowledged writing the letters at Morel’s behest. He added that Morel, for some 15 years, “helped Landry with traffic tickets issued to people from his bingo hall or who worked for him.”
“He claimed Morel helped him with about three tickets per year,” the warrant says. “Landry sent the tickets via U.S. mail to the District Attorney’s Office with a note saying that anything Morel could do to help the person with the ticket would be greatly appreciated.”
The warrant described a videotaped meeting between Keim and Morel that happened at Morel’s apartment in July 2012. The district attorney, after giving the woman two bottles of wine, sought to assure Keim that he would produce documentation showing she had performed her community service.
“So, I’m an important guy?” Morel asks the woman at one point.
“Important? Um, yeah,” Keim replies.
“Well ... then I need to order you to kiss me,” Morel said, according to the warrant.
The warrant details similar interactions that Morel had with two other women charged with DWI. After the women were arrested in early 2012, the warrant says, they began cooperating with the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office in their probe of Morel.
It says Morel offered to help both of them but also “asked ... to meet socially for what apparently was the exchange of sexual favors.”
In the end, no such favors occurred, the warrant says, but Morel managed to secure fraudulent community service letters from the Lions Club for both women. When he gave the letter from one woman to her probation officer, the warrant says, Morel placed his hand on the woman’s buttocks “and squeezed when she rose to leave.”
Landry, who has been released on $30,000 bail, faces four counts of filing false public records and four counts of conspiracy to file false public records.
His defense attorney said this week there is “no substance” to the charges, calling them “unfortunate overkill for someone that has done as much for his community as Mr. Landry has.”
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.