NOTE: Last week two media outlets disseminated a dozen witness transcripts in the bribery investigation of Kenny Matassa and Olin Berthelot along with numerous documents procured via records requests. Since these items are now in the public domain Pelican Post is free to reveal certain information long-known but withheld pursuant to an understanding with authorities. One of those items is the fact of a loan provided to bribery target Wayne Lawson by your writer, a fact voluntarily disclosed to investigators over nine months ago (and disclosed off the record to those other media outlets on March 10 during grand jury deliberations). What follows is a first person account of events experienced by your writer.
Just before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 7, 2016 the barking of my three small dogs alerted me to the presence of Wayne Lawson, visibly agitated, in my driveway. Our contact since the first week of August when “the Matassa Tapes” spurred a bribery investigation had been minimal, limited to a few off-the-cuff conversations about November 8 elections in the City of Gonzales. Lawson had driven to my house unannounced seeking my advice after a supporter of Kenny Matassa tried to arrange a meeting between Lawson and Matassa’s defense attorney.
Why had Lawson sought my counsel? Didn’t he already have an attorney to represent his interests?
Lawson insisted that he was not being represented by counsel on that day, even though Edmond Jordan appeared at the Sheriff’s office on August 2 when Lawson turned over his smart phone, the device which held original recordings which became “the Matassa Tapes.”
“I haven’t talked with Edmond Jordan since then,” Lawson assured. “I never signed a contract with him…didn’t pay him to represent me…I don’t trust Edmond Jordan.”
But should he agree to meet with Lewis Unglesby?
I gave Wayne Lawson the best practical advice I could; i.e. meeting with Unglesby was an awful idea and he should alert District Attorney Ricky Babin and/or investigators to the request. Lawson had not communicated with either since early August, a claim too fantastic to take at face value. He is distrustful of law enforcement for reasons we did not get into though I agreed to his request to contact DA Babin; which I did by email early the next day, a Saturday.
Not expecting a response until Monday, there were chores to accomplish sans my phone which was left to charge. Two hours later and I’d missed multiple calls and texts from the DA whose consternation was every bit as palpable as Wayne Lawson’s the preceding day.
Indeed, authorities had made no contact with Wayne Lawson but not for lack of trying. Babin informed that Edmond Jordan had sent “a letter of representation” meaning that any contact with Lawson had to go through Jordan. Multiple requests had been made by Babin’s office but Jordan “refused to make Lawson available.” All of which was news to Wayne Lawson who assured “Mr. Jordan never told me about any request by Mr. Babin” reiterating; “Jordan is not my lawyer.”
Jordan is the State Representative from District 29 who sought the District 2 Senate seat in a recent special election won by Ascension’s Ed Price. Jordan endorsed Price in his runoff with Warren Harang, III for what that’s worth. Jordan also did his utmost to sabotage the bribery investigation after being recommended to Wayne Lawson by Mike McClanahan, President of Baton Rouge NAACP Chapter.
On October 10 Lawson secured the services of a local lawyer to clean up Edmond Jordan’s mess.
Lawson, unbeknownst to me or anyone else he claims, decided to reach out to McClanahan after hearing what he deemed racist statements by Olin Berthelot, Matassa’s criminal co-defendant (which can be heard at 13:00 into the Matassa Tapes-No. 1). Lawson explained that he sought the NAACP’s assistance with his City Council campaign and this could be an issue upon which he might capitalize.
Ascension’s NAACP charter was suspended a few months into the presidency of Tyler Turner. Coincidentally, Tyler is the son of Judge Alvin Turner whose name is bandied about throughout the Matassa Tapes.
On Sunday, July 31 around 2:00 pm Wayne Lawson called to ask me to contact his “lawyer, Mike McClanahan.” Mike McClanahan, as it happens, used to practice law in the Donaldsonville office of Marvin Gros. He was subsequently disbarred, a fact which I shared with Lawson that day before acquiescing to his request. McClanahan had very little to say on that Sunday, ten hours before publication of the Matassa Tapes.
Monday afternoon (the recordings had been made public early that morning) I met with ADA Robin O’ Bannon and two APSO detectives, at which time I turned over the only recording device in my possession. Unable to contact Wayne Lawson they asked if I might help but Lawson was not answering my calls either. The only other potential way I knew to reach Lawson was through Mike McClanahan who answered my call; and I handed my phone over to ADA O’Bannon.
They arranged to have Lawson and his lawyer, Edmond Jordan by this time, meet APSO at 6:00 pm at Lawson’s residence; at which time Lawson was supposed to produce his phone. A search and seizure warrant had been obtained for the phone which contained the recordings. APSO showed up but no one was home; not Lawson or his family, not Jordan, and not McClanahan. I received a call from one of the detectives around 8:00 pm looking to get a line on Lawson, who was not answering his phone. Could I call McClanahan again in the hope that he’d relay the message?
McClanahan relayed the message to Edmond Jordan who scheduled an 11:00 a.m. meeting at APSO for Tuesday (August 2) at which time Lawson would present his phone.
Early Tuesday morning DA Babin requested a meeting with me and he delivered disconcerting news. Some time after agreeing to bring Lawson to the Sheriff’s Office Edmond Jordan had claimed Wayne Lawson “does not possess his phone;” an outright lie as it turned out. Wayne Lawson insists he never lacked possession of his phone (not until APSO seized it pursuant to a search warrant that is) and had “no idea why Edmond Jordan would have said” otherwise.
By Tuesday morning Lawson had concluded that Jordan “wasn’t doing me right” and he showed up at my house instead of APSO for the scheduled meet. I alerted APSO to this bizarre circumstance and was told that Edmond Jordan was already at the Sheriff’s Office. Could I get Lawson to come in?
Lawson had come to believe Edmond Jordan had ulterior motives and cared little what befell Wayne Lawson. He asked me to accompany him to the Sheriff’s Office because Jordan “can’t be trusted.” I did so and Lawson handed over his phone to APSO.
All of the events prior to my August 4 interrogation can be read about in the transcript made public by WAFB last week.
Whatever Edmond Jordan’s motive was, it was not to serve Wayne Lawson’s best interest. Lawson, for his part, seems to have listened to bad advice, none of which came from me.
I exercised little control over Wayne Lawson and sought to exercise even less. Whenever he asked me for help I tried to provide it. Whenever he asked me a question I answered it the best way I could.