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High Ranking Louisiana Prison Official Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

On June 29, 2006, Louisiana prison administrator James H. Leslie, 55, was formally indicted on federal charges of tampering with a witness. The indictment was returned on February 16, 2006 but remained sealed so as not to impede an ongoing investigation.

“[T]here is no longer any need for this matter to remain under seal,” stated a motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

According to the indictment, Leslie “attempted to corruptly persuade another person with the intent to hinder, delay and prevent the communication of information” to a federal agent.

At the time, FBI investigators were looking into allegations of extortion raised by rodeo producer Dan Klein, Jr. FBI agents were also investigating suspicions of mail fraud, theft from a federally-funded program and perjury.

Klein was under contract to provide livestock for the Angola Prison Rodeo. He alleged that Warden Burl Cain had pressured him to make a $1,000 donation to the prison chapel fund, and said he wore a recording device when he made the payment to Cain in April 2004.

In response, Warden Cain stated that Klein was angry because the contract to supply cattle for the prison rodeo had been opened up to additional bidders.

Leslie was acting director of the Prison Enterprises program at the time the controversy arose. Prison Enterprises oversees the agricultural and industrial divisions of Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

He had announced plans to retire in 2006, and was placed on administrative leave the same day he was indicted. 

Leslie pleaded guilty to the charge of witness tampering on August 30, 2006 before U.S. District Court Judge Frank Polozola, and agreed to cooperate with further investigations. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Februrary 9, 2007. No charges have yet been filed against Warden Cain. In God of the Rodeo author Daniel Bergner alleged that in 1996 Cain shook him down for bribes in order for him to have access to the prison rodeo which was the subject of his book. Bergner sued and judge Polozola issued an injunction allowing Berger access to the rodeo to complete his book. 

Source: The Advocate;

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