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Louisiana Judge, Attorneys Plead Guilty to Bribery Charges

In October 2009, following plea negotiations with federal prosecutors, a Louisiana judge and two lawyers pleaded guilty for their roles in a bail bond-rigging conspiracy that allowed about 100 prisoners over a five-year period to get out of jail without paying any bond money, just bribe money.

Wayne Cresap, a long-time St. Bernard Parish judge, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to taking part in a judicial bribery scheme which netted him between $70,000 and $120,000 from 2004 to 2009. The attorneys, Victor J. “V.J.” Dau-terive and Nunzio Salvadore “Sal” Cusimano, both of whom practiced in the St. Bernard Parish, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Cresap was arrested by FBI agents in April 2009, about two weeks after the FBI confronted him in a parking lot about the payoff scheme. According to federal agents, Cresap admitted to his role in the scheme at that time. Although white-collar defendants are not usually arrested, the FBI was concerned that Cresap might commit suicide and took him into custody. Nonetheless, Cresap, whose crimes are punishable by up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines, was re-leased shortly after his arrest.

Cresap, Dauterive and Cusimano all agreed to cooperate in other corruption investigations. Additionally, Cresap, a Democrat who had served in the 34th Judicial District since 1999, agreed to resign before he was sentenced. He filed a motion for interim disqualification with the Louisiana Judiciary Commission, and the Louisiana Supreme Court appointed a retired judge to oversee his cases.

According to the charges outlined in a bill of information filed in July 2009, Cresap accepted cash from the attorneys in exchange for converting secured bonds, for which money or property must be pledged, into personal surety bonds, which required only a written agreement to pay if the defendant skipped out on a court hearing. The lawyers received cash payments from the prisoners’ families or friends in amounts that ranged from $1,500 to $3,000, according to Assis-tant U.S. Attorneys Brian Marcelle and Richard Pickens, who prosecuted the case. The bribes, veiled as retainer fees, were split with Cresap.

Cresap’s attorney, Pat Fanning, described his client as truly remorseful for his crimes. Not surprisingly, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, speaking at a news conference outside the U.S. District Courthouse in New Orleans, had a different perspective. He described the bribery scheme as “a pure act of corruption.”

Dauterive and Cusimano were sentenced on April 22, 2010. Dauterive received 48 months in prison, three years supervised release and a $25,000 fine; Cusimano received 33 months in prison, three years supervised release and a $6,000 fine.

Cresap is scheduled to be sentenced on August 12, 2010. Despite pleading guilty, he remains eligible to receive pen-sion benefits from the Louisiana State Employees’ System. See: United States v. Cresap, U.S.D.C. (D. Louisiana), Case No. 2:09-cr-00193-MVL-SS.

Sources: Times-Picayune, www.nola.com

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