Matassa won’t agree to release record of criminal proceeding in suit to recover legal fees

Kenny Matassa could not be compelled to testify at his July 2018 criminal trial when he was acquitted of felony bribery charges.  No matter how distasteful for him, that will not be the case in pre-trial discovery and at trial of the civil lawsuit he filed (and dragged Ascension Parish Government into as party-plaintiff so taxpayers could foot his legal bills) on June 18.  One defendant is urging disclosure of the record of his criminal proceedings, expunged after Matassa’s acquittal, with a hearing scheduled for November 25 in Donaldsonville because Matassa refused consent.

The lawsuit filed by Ascension Parish Government (APG) and Matassa seeks reimbursement of the latter’s legal fees incurred to defend a 2017 bribery indictment.  Named defendants are Berkley Insurance Company, from which APG secured the insurance policy at issue; and Harry Robert Insurance Agency (HRIA), the agent who brokered the deal.  Plaintiffs (how much of any recovery does Ascension Parish get?) seek “$181,829.12, plus legal interest…(and) $363,658.24, as penalty for Berkley Insurance Company’s breach of its statutory duty of good faith and fair dealing.”

The initial amount represents Matassa’s criminal defense legal fees, less $50,000 representing the “retained limits deductible.”  Thus, Matassa’s criminal fees and expenses totaled $231,829.12.  Matassa was charged via Bill of Indictment along with Olin Berthelot in March 2017.  He was acquitted after a two-day trial on July 10-11, 2018.

Coincidentally, the case was allotted to the same judge who presided over Matassa’s criminal trial…

Judge Thomas Kliebert

who recused in September.  The case was re-allotted to Judge Jessie LeBlanc’s court.

HRIA argues:

“(T)he facts and circumstances in the underlying criminal proceedings are integral to HRIA’s defenses…The underlying acts, which took place between July 27, 2016 and July 29, 2016, were committed by Matassa while he was acting in his personal and individual capacity as a private citizen…Matassa was therefore not acting within the course and scope of his duties as the Ascension Parish President.

Thus, coverage would not exist under the Berkley (Insurance Company’s insurance) policy.”

“Given the obvious need for the parties to have access to the expunged records” HRIA’a counsel requested “Matassa authorize and consent to release” of those records by letter dated July 15.  Matassa and his lawyer, Christina Peck, ignored that letter; but did respond to a second request on July 30.

“Matassa’s counsel responded to the second request, stating that she would not agree to authorize the release of the expunged records without a court order.  Plaintiffs made it clear that Mr. Matassa would not consent to the release of his criminal record without court intervention,” HRIA wrote.

Only Matassa, or the court “for good cause shown,” can reveal those criminal records.  It will have to be the court which has scheduled the hearing for November 25 at 9:00 in Donaldsonville.

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