Former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard and former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson pleaded not guilty to 38 counts — in theory carrying maximum sentences totaling 695 years each if convicted for all of them — of conspiracy , wire fraud and theft of programs receiving federal funds today in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy.
According to the indictment, Broussard and Wilkinson in late 2003 improperly hired Broussard's then-girlfriend, now-ex-wife Karen Parker as paralegal supervisor for the parish attorney's office, despite the fact that Parker was unqualified for the position and was actually working in ID management for parish employees.
Read the indictment here: Broussard__Aaron___Wilkinson__Thomas_sind.pdf
Between 2003 and 2010, the government charges, Broussard increased Wilkinson's salary from $100,000 to $184,000 and in return, Wilkinson kept Parker on his staff, gradually increasing her salary from $48,000 to $64,000.
Parker was originally charged along with her former husband and boss but, last month, she and former Broussard aide Tim Whitmer took plea deals and are now cooperating with the government.
Stacy, a Houston judge who was appointed after all 15 local federal judges recused themselves from the case, today noted that the superseding indictment, filed after Parker's guilty plea, includes new charges that, in late 2008, Wilkinson tried to leverage his position as a board member at an New Orleans Catholic school to get one of Broussard's relatives admitted. (The indictment doesn't name the school, but The Times-Picayune reports that Wilkinson formerly served on the board at the Christian Brothers School.) Broussard allegedly increased Wilkinson's pay by $36,000 shortly after that.
The trial is set to begin in May in New Orleans before U.S. District Court Judge Hayden Head, Jr. of Corpus Christi, Texas.
(Today in Louisiana public corruption history, via Nola Defender: Today is the 27th anniversary of Gov. Edwin Edwards' first indictments. He was acquitted, for those charges, in 1986.)