Louisiana news briefs
Morganza Lock design work to begin this year
HOUMA (AP) — As the wait continues for congressional authorization of Morganza-to-the-Gulf, the state will begin design of the federal levee system’s most expensive section this fiscal year.
The state has budgeted some $10 million for design of the Houma Navigation Canal Lock in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Terrebonne Parish Levee District Director Reggie Dupre said the lock has been in the design phase before but was eventually put in limbo.
The project to better project Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes from storms has received all of its U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approvals. However, its passage through Congress is not certain.
Judge asked to remove
BP settlement probe leader
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A lawyer targeted in an investigation of the settlement program for compensating victims of BP’s 2010 Gulf oil spill has asked a federal judge to disqualify former FBI director Louis Freeh from reviewing and acting on any allegations involving the attorney.
In a court filing Wednesday, attorney Jon Andry argues that Freeh can’t be impartial because he and his firms have “direct financial and legal alliances” with two of the law firms representing BP.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier appointed Freeh last year to investigate alleged misconduct by Lionel Sutton III, a lawyer who worked on the staff of court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau.
In September, Freeh issued a report that accused Andry and another lawyer, Glen Lerner, of using Sutton’s position in the settlement program to benefit their clients’ claims. In return, Freeh’s report said, Sutton received more than $40,000 in fees for referring a claimant to Andry and Lerner’s law firm before joining Juneau’s staff.
Official testifies he knew nothing about pump evac
GRETNA (AP) — An official in charge of drainage for Jefferson Parish during Hurricane Katrina says he knew nothing about the parish’s “doomsday plan” that would send his pump operators 110 miles away to shelter in Washington Parish until the day before the storm struck land.
Kazem Alikhani, now director of the parish’s public works department, was the first witness called to testify by plaintiffs’ attorneys Thursday.
Alikhani said he also was unaware that he himself was required to remain in the parish’s emergency operations center during the storm — as the doomsday plan required — so he, too, evacuated with his workers before Katrina’s landfall on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005.
“I didn’t become aware of it until Sunday morning,” Alikhani testified of the evacuations.
Plaintiffs contend the unstaffed drainage pumps caused flooding that damaged 40,000 residences and businesses. They want the jury to hold the parish, former Parish President Aaron Broussard and Consolidated Drainage District No. 2 liable for the damage.
The parish’s attorneys say the parish is immune from liability, because the Broussard had and followed its emergency operations plan. And they have not conceded that the unstaffed pumping stations caused the flooding.
The evacuation order was given late on the morning before Katrina’s landfall, he testified. The next afternoon, as Katrina’s winds subsided, pump operators began trickling back into Jefferson. They were dropped off at the foot of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and driven to their stations in East Jefferson Levee District high-water vehicles, he said.
Brusly police chief arrested
PORT ALLEN (AP) — Brusly Police Chief Jamie Whaley has surrendered to authorities in West Baton Rouge Parish after being accused of using town credit cards to buy gasoline for his personal vehicle.
Whaley was booked Thursday into the parish jail on counts of theft and malfeasance in office. According to a warrant for his arrest, the 36-year-old is accused of using the credit cards to buy about $1,120 in gasoline between Jan. 2, 2013, and Jan. 3, 2014.
He posted a $5,500 bail and was released from the jail later Thursday.
Col. Richie Johnson, of the parish sheriff’s office, says the investigation was conducted by the state Inspector General’s Office and the FBI.
Johnson says Whaley has already paid the money back to the town.
Man pleads guilty to receiving child pornography
LAKE CHARLES (AP) — A 29-year-old Leesville man has pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography in a federal court in Lake Charles.
Elliot R. Duke entered his plea Thursday before U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi.
During his court appearance, evidence was presented that showed law enforcement had received a tip that child pornography was on Duke’s computer and a subsequent search of his house in May 2013 found it on a laptop.
U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley says a forensic search of the laptop found that Duke had been trading child pornography through emails and had about 168 videos and 187 still images.
Sentencing has been set for April 24.
Beating death trial
date set for ex-police officer
MANY (AP) — A former Natchitoches police officer accused in the beating death of a Sabine Parish man last year will face a jury next January.
State District Judge Stephen Beasley on Thursday set a Jan. 19, 2015, trial date in the capital murder case of 34-year-old Robert Barthelemy, of Natchitoches. The jury will be selected in St. Landry Parish then transported to Sabine Parish for the trial proceedings.
A Sabine Parish grand jury last fall indicted Barthelemy on first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and home invasion charges in the Aug. 21 death of 25-year-old Tony Procell, of Many.
Authorities have said both men were involved in a dispute involving a woman.
Amber Alert issued
for abducted Duson child
LAFAYETTE (AP) — Louisiana State Police have issued an Amber Alert for a child who was abducted early Friday from a home in Duson.
Troopers say the child, Kailey Kristy Taylor, is a 3-year-old black female with brown hair and brown eyes. She is approximately 3-feet tall and weighs 34 pounds. Her hair was braided on the sides and she was last known to be wearing a lime green shirt and pink and white pants.
Lafayette Parish sheriff’s deputies say the child was allegedly abducted by her father.
They were last seen in a 2000 white Pontiac Bonneville with a Louisiana license plate, XHM 285.
Anyone having any information as to the whereabouts of the child should contact the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office at 337-236-5871, 337-280-9405 or call 911.