NEW ORLEANS – In a July 1 recommendation to the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board (LADB) accepted the formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Council (ODC) against attorney Gregory F. Williams Sr. to have him permanently disbarred for alleged engagement in criminal conduct, deceitful conduct, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and violating Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct.
The OCD charged Williams with conspiracy to commit bribery dated Jan. 16, 2013. Then on Feb. 8, 2013, Williams was placed on interim suspension by order of the Louisiana Supreme Court and has remained suspended since then. The ODC filed the formal charges against Williams on Feb. 21, 2013.
The LADB explained in its official filed July 1 document that on Jan. 17, 2013, Williams entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit bribery in violation of Title 18, USC §371.
“At all times pertinent to these proceedings, [Williams] was employed as an assistant district attorney for the 15th Judicial District in the state of Louisiana,” the LABD report said. “[He] corruptly accepted and agreed to accept a cash payment in the amount of $500, as well as other things of value from currently uncharged co-conspirators, intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with a transaction and series of transactions of the District Attorney's Office for the 15th Judicial District.”
Williams was accused of conspiring with others to commit the crime of bribery of an agent of a government agency receiving federal funds. It was part of the alleged conspiracy that an “uncharged co-conspirator (called co-conspirator No. 1)” would solicit hundreds of thousands of dollars from individuals with criminal charges pending in the 15th Judicial District by promising favorable resolutions of their pending felony and misdemeanor cases, the majority of which were operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) cases.
It was further part of the alleged conspiracy that in Williams’ effort to deliver on his promises to his clients of favorable case resolutions, co-conspirator No. 1 would pay bribes in the form of cash and other things of value to personnel within the district attorney's office and to employees associated with the OWI program in the 15th Judicial District Court.
Also, in exchange for his assistance in obtaining favorable resolutions to cases, Williams would purportedly use his position with the district attorney's office to enrich himself by corruptly accepting bribes from co-conspirator No. 1 in the form of cash and other things of value, intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with a series of transactions of the district attorney's office involving $5,000 or more.
On March 8, 2013, Williams filed an answer to the charges through his counsel, Leslie J. Schiff, admitting to the allegations in the charges, but denied providing “a quid pro quo or benefit in exchange for any gift he may have received.” After several continuances, this matter was heard by an ODC Hearing Committee on May 18, 2015.
It was established through Williams' own guilty plea that there were benefits given through the actions of Williams to his clients. This was also noted during the course of the sentencing hearing on July 10, 2015.
Based on Williams’ plea, along with sufficient evidence, the LADB found it reasonable to concur with the ODC’s findings, and to offer suggestions for sentencing that follows disbarment proceedings.
“Unfortunately, the committee does not see sufficient nor ample reason to deviate from the base line,” the LADB said. “ODC argues that in all prior instances of similar misconduct by an assistant district attorney who trades on his official position and accepts bribes, the matters resulted in permanent disbarment. Respondent has not cited any case refuting ODC's argument.”
The case explained that disbarment is generally appropriate when a lawyer engages in serious criminal conduct, a necessary element of which includes intentional interference with the administration of justice, false swearing, misrepresentation, fraud, extortion, misappropriation or theft, or a lawyer engages in any other intentional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation that adversely reflects on the lawyer's fitness to practice.
The LADB also found that William’s guilty plea conclusively established that he was guilty of intentional corruption of the judicial process as a result of his acceptance of bribes, and also guilty of malfeasance in office which resulted in a felony conviction involving fraud.
Furthermore, the court noted that the respondent's corruption of the criminal judicial process is the "sort of pervasive public corruption" that interferes with the administration of justice and undermines the principal that all are equal before the law.
“It is therefore the recommendation of the Hearing Committee that Gregory F. Williams Sr. be permanently disbarred,” the LADB said. “The Hearing Committee does not make this decision lightly and it is certainly regrettable that such action must be taken but the evidence overwhelmingly requires this recommendation.”