Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Broussard pleads guilty

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Aaron Broussard, pictured in August after pleading not guilty to corruption charges. Broussard reversed today, pleading guilty to conspiracy and theft.
  • Aaron Broussard, pictured in August after pleading not guilty to corruption charges. Broussard reversed today, pleading guilty to conspiracy and theft.

Former Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard today pleaded guilty to two federal corruption charges: conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud and theft from programs receiving federal funds. Broussard, who accepted a plea deal after co-defendant and former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson entered a guilty plea, faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for the convictions.

Broussard's admission of guilt concludes a lengthy federal investigation into corruption within his administration. But U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said that the former parish president will be expected to cooperate with future investigations, mentioning parish contractors but not naming any specifically.

"This case, which has now produced five convictions ... serves as a blueprint" for how government officials should and should not behave, Letten said after the hearing. "If you read the factual basis, you'll see how important this case is."

(More after the jump)

The two charges involve a conspiracy beginning in late 2003 — between Broussard, Wilkinson, former Chief Administrative Officer Tim Whitmer — to falsely employ Broussard's then-girlfriend, now ex-wife Karen Parker as a "paralegal supervisor," serving under Wilkinson. Parker was not trained as a paralegal nor did she ever perform work as one, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Klebba at today's hearing. She was actually assigned to parish ID Management, which oversees the issuance of identification badges for public employees.

"This position was created specifically for Ms. Parker," Klebba said. As for the ID management job, he added, "Ms. Parker rarely showed up for work."

Nevertheless she was paid more than $46,000 per year upon taking the position. By 2009, she was making nearly $64,000.

"This occurred with the permission of Mr. Wilkinson?" asked Judge Hayden Head today.

"Yes, your honor," Broussard said, then admitted that Wilkinson received tens of thousands of dollars in raises in exchange for that and other favors.

As part of the conspiracy count, Broussard also admitted to accepting $66,000 in bribes from Bill Mack in exchange for parish business between 2004 and 2007. (Mack took a loss. He only received $40,000 worth of parish contracts.)

Mack, Wilkinson, Parker and Whitmer have all submitted guilty pleas related to this investigation. Broussard — along with Parker and Wilkinson — is set for sentencing on Feb. 25, 2013. He remains out on bond until then.

Update: Read the plea agreement Broussard_plea.pdf

Here's the relevant part:

This plea agreement is predicated upon the fact that the defendant agrees to submit to interviews whenever and wherever requested by law enforcement authorities. The defendant understands he must be completely truthful. The defendant also agrees to appear before any Grand Jury or trial jury and testify truthful ... The defendant further agrees to immediately advise the Government as to any person defendant believes to be violating the law and defendant agrees to assist the Government with regard to the investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct.

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