CLINTON, LA (WAFB) - Two East Feliciana Parish women are in the clear. Each had been charged with theft in connection with the Clinton Main Street project, but a grand jury found no evidence of wrongdoing.
For the last six months, Alice Kent and Carol Shirley have been under the specter of theft charges from a federal program. Those days are over with as a grand jury returns a no-true bill.
There were plenty of hugs after the grand jury's decision not to indict Kent or Shirley, who characterizes the last six months as a sham set up by a rogue cop.
They had been charged with felony theft in connection with their jobs as Main Street Program coordinators. Those charges have been dropped. They were suspected of stealing $65,000 from Friends of Clinton Main Street, a non-profit organization.
Back in November, Staff Sgt. James Cook with the Clinton Police Department said Kent and Shirley used the money for personal things like rent, utilities and travel. The yearlong investigation into the missing money led to the arrests on Nov. 9.
Shirley and Kent were initially charged with one count each of racketeering, malfeasance and theft, six counts each of public contract fraud, 15 counts each of filing or maintaining false public records, and 196 counts each of money laundering at the time of their arrests.
"It's bittersweet to have to drag my family and friends through false allegations after being unjustly accused. I appreciate the district attorney's office on the way they handled it. Thank God they came to the truth," said Shirley.
"It's something we've been waiting for for the past six months. To be vindicated and to get our integrity back in that means a lot," said Kent.
Defense Attorney Lance Unglesby hired long-time East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Deputy Bud Conner to investigate on behalf of the duo.
"This is the product of one rogue police officer. Fortunately we had the good sense to get Bud Conner involved. He was able to uncover the type of man that this individual was and the system worked," said Unglesby.
Clearly both of them are very relieved that the grand jury decided not to indict them and they walk away feeling much better.
Former Clinton police officer James Cook, who brought the charges, was in the courtroom. He left shortly after the hearing.