St. James judge strikes again (and is overturned on appeal…again)

Sorrento Councilman Randy Anny

Three years ago an indictment against Sorrento councilman Randy Anny charged multiple counts of Forgery, Theft, Malfeasance, and Impermissible Fee Splitting with co-defendant Roy Maughan, Jr.  Assigned to Judge Thomas Kliebert’s Division B of the 23rd Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ascension, the case against Anny is scheduled for trial in October after being severed from the proceeding against Maughan.  Why has it taken so long?

Judge Thomas Kliebert

What is it with Judge Thomas Kliebert and his misinterpretation of fairly basic legal concepts?

It was Kliebert, presiding over State of Louisiana versus Kenneth Matassa, who concluded that an alleged bribery target would not be a candidate (and, thus, incapable of being bribed) if he falsified information on election qualifying forms.  Bizarre given the fact that the conclusion had nothing at all to do with Matassa’s motion to quash the indictment, a proceeding in which fact determinations may not be considered. Disturbing because Kliebert just made it up in the face of mountains of statutory law and jurisprudence establishing that challenges of any candidacy must happen within seven days of qualifying.

Kliebert might as well have sent an engraved invitation for Matassa to waive the jury and opt for a bench trial, which the defendant did in short order.  No matter that the First Circuit Appeals Court overturned that bit of dicta (a judge’s incidental expression of opinion, not essential to the decision and not establishing precedent) in Kliebert’s curious ruling, the die was cast.  Any casual observer of the local court knew what the ultimate outcome of Matassa’s bench trial was going to be.

Currently Randy Anny is facing three counts of Forgery and a single count of Theft.  Kliebert granted a defense motion to dismiss either a forgery or the theft count based on Double Jeopardy last year.  He wrote:

“Because the money in this matter was allegedly obtained with the consent of the town of Sorrento, the evidence that the money was transferred for a forged instrument will be crucial to proof of theft by means of fraudulent conduct.  To put it simply, the facts necessary to prove element 4 of count #4 are the identical facts necessary to prove the entirety of count #3.  Thus, counts #3 and #4 of this Bill of Indictment improperly subject Defendants to double jeopardy.”

Anny and Maughan are accused of forging three bids, the third of which was from Design & Build which was awarded the contract.  A check for $77,500 was cut before any work was ever performed and, in fact, no sewer work would ever be performed.  Which amounts, according to District Attorney Ricky Babin’s office, to Theft.

Sorrento accuses Design Build Consultants, LLC of fraud in suit to recoup $77,500

The First Circuit disagreed, siding with DA Ricky Babin’s argument.  Babin’s appellate memorandum includes:

“In June 2012 the Town of Sorrento solicited bids for a sewer project.  During this time defendant Randy Anny was a councilman… and acting as Mayor Pro-Tempore while defendant Roy Maughan was his attorney and business partner.  On June 25, 2012 Anny hand-delivered several bids for sewer work to the Town of Sorrento including one purported to be from Julien Enterprises and one purported to be from SDK Properties, LLC.  He also provided the Town with a document labeled “Invoice” purported to be from Design & Build Consultants, LLC.  That document contained a quote for the sewer work and a notation “Deposit received $75,000.”  Discovery indicates that these companies did not prepare, submit or authorize the preparation or submission of these bids to the Town of Sorrento.  On July 6, 2012, at the direction of Anny, the Town issued a check in the amount of $77,500 to Design and Build for the sewer work.  The check was deposited in an account the same day, and no work was performed for nearly a year.  On July 13, 2012 a cashier’s check was issued from the purported Design and Build account in the amount of $60,000 to James Maughan, defendant Roy Maughan’s brother.  On September 28, 2012 a $14,000 check was issued from the same account to Roy Maughan.

At the hearing on the matter, defendants presented no evidence to support their motion to quash, rather they made argument only.  After argument, the trial court took the matter under advisement.  Two days later, the trial court granted defendant’s motion to quash finding that the “facts necessary to prove element 4 of count #4 are the identical facts necessary to prove the entirety of count #3.”

Babin would go on to argue:

“The trial court’s ruling on the Motion to Quash is premature and contrary to law.  When a double jeopardy claim arises in the context of multiple offenses allegedly committed in a single criminal episode and charged in the same Bill of Indictment, the trial court should defer a finding of double jeopardy until after a trial on the matter.  Herein, the trial court’s finding of double jeopardy prior to the trial was premature.

Secondly, the  trial court is required to consider only the Bill of Indictment, Bill of Particulars and testimony.  Herein, while defense counsel presented no evidence, the court considered and cited their argument in support of the motion to quash.  This is a clear violation of the law.”

Don’t be surprised if Anny waives his right to a jury.

We have long believed that Ascension, currently sharing the 23rd Judicial District with two other parishes, merits its own district.  What would happen to Assumption and St. James is not our concern.  That is a story for another day.