PRAIRIEVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa has been indicted by a grand jury on bribery charges.
Olin Berthelot has also been indicted for his role in allegedly bribing Wayne Lawson to drop out of the Gonzales City Council race. Both men are charged with felony election offenses involving bribery.
Louis Unglesby, whose firm represents Matassa, says he believes this case centers around a group of people who were unhappy Matassa was elected parish president in 2015.
"It's ridiculous, political, and unfortunate that a group of unhappy people that didn't like the results of an election were able to abuse the legal system," said Unglesby.
Attorney General Jeff Landry also issued a statement following Matassa's indictment. "Public officials, elected or appointed, should conduct themselves in a fair, lawful, and honorable way. When that does not happen, it has a negative effect on our citizens and our communities and undermines the public's trust in our government," said Landry.
"During my campaign, I promised to investigate, arrest, and prosecute corrupt public officials; and I will continue to do all I legally can to eliminate this problem in Louisiana," said Landry in his statement.
The Attorney General's office will lead the prosecution of Matassa and Berthelot.
Matassa is accused of offering former candidate for Gonzales City Council, Wayne Lawson, cash, a job, and future backing in a parish election if he would drop out of the race.
Wade Petite, who is the owner and editor of the Pelican Post online newspaper, first published audio recordings in which Matassa and local businessman, Olin Berthelot, could be heard offering the alleged bribe to Lawson.
Matassa: "I don't know when it's going to happen but when Judge [Alvin] Turner retires, Travis [his son] is going to go there, and that's going to be another seat open on the parish side."
Matassa claims it was not a bribe, rather that he was simply offering to help a friend. Petite said the recordings speak for themselves. "Everybody's heard the best evidence against Kenny Matassa and Olin Berthelot. It came out of their own mouths," Petite said.
Related stories on the case are listed from newest to oldest:
- Kenny Matassa remains silent ahead of grand jury hearing
- Matassa grand jury hearing on bribery allegations to continue
- Grand jury hearing case against Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa
- Ascension Parish President Matassa grand jury likely in February
- AG asked to assist in bribery probe against Ascension Parish President
- Attorney for Ascension Parish president says alleged bribe was a 'loan' for friend
- Ascension Parish president addresses parish council following bribery allegations
- Gonzales City Council speaks about bribery allegations made against Ascension Parish President