LAFAYETTE — A former district attorney in Lafayette has been permanently stripped of his license to practice law in the state of Louisiana after his involvement in a bribery scheme.
In 2015, Gregory Williams Sr. pleaded guilty to one federal count of conspiracy to commit bribery for accepting gifts. The gifts included bicycles, clothing and $500 cash given to him by private investigator Robert Williamson.
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Dec. 6 that Williams should be disbarred.
According to William P. Quigley, professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans, bribery, particularly of a prosecutor or a judge, is taken very seriously.
“Federal bribery under the law [Williams] pled guilty to carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison,” Quigley told the Louisiana Record.
A federal judge sentenced Williams to two years of probation and six months of home confinement. According to the Louisiana Supreme Court decision, Williams told the judge during his sentencing that he voluntarily surrendered his law license when he had not.
A disciplinary committee of the bar association argued that the judge was lenient in his sentence because Williams said he surrendered his license. Quigley said that the sentencing for political entities in cases such as this vary. Each is individually evaluated on a number of factors.
“It is very serious when legal officials are convicted of taking money,” Quigley said.
The crime of conspiracy entails that whoever is convicted is a participant in an illegal action with another person.
“Even if you did not commit the crime yourself, if your actions assisted in any way another person to commit a crime, you can be found guilty of conspiracy,” Quigley said.
Williams’ accomplice, Williamson, is serving time in federal prison for his role as the mastermind of the scheme.
Williamson pleaded guilty in June 2015 to three of the nine charges for which he was indicted in 2013. He admitted guilt to one count each of conspiracy, bribery and social security fraud.
It is alleged by federal officials that between March 1, 2008, and Feb. 27, 2012, Williamson offered cash and gifts to a number of employees in the district attorney’s office to get his clients in the “immediate 894” process. The process was put into place by former district attorney Mike Harson in which defendants could complete traditional punishments like community service and driver's education before ever seeing a judge.
In addition to Williams, Barna Haynes, Harson’s former secretary, and Denease Curry, Williams’ secretary, also aided Williamson in the scheme. Just like Williamson, Haynes has also spent time in federal prison for assisting Williamson in exchange for money.
Williams objected to the disciplinary board's recommendation to permanently revoke his license, instead suggesting a three-year suspension retroactive to Feb. 8, 2013, the date of his interim suspension from practicing law.
The state Supreme Court agreed with the disciplinary committee, noting that Williams pleaded guilty to a felony committed while employed in the district attorney's office, a crime so egregious it warrants permanent disbarment.