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Story Archives: Federal court drops charges in Coenen case
|Federal court drops charges in Coenen case|
The federal case against 5th Judicial District Attorney Billy Coenen and two codefendants was dropped last week pursuant a recent Supreme Court opinion.
Charges were dismissed against Coenen, Mike Thompson,— brother of state Sen. Francis Thompson — and local engineer Terry Denmon based on a recent Supreme Court ruling in Jeffrey Skilling v. United States.
Defense attorney Mike Small, who filed for a dismissal last year, said he was happy that the judge decided to look at the facts and dismiss the case.
"Obviously, I agree with what happened. My motion to dismiss is what put all of this on hold until it was determined what would come down in the Skilling case," Small said.
Prosecutors contended Coenen and his codefendants inappropriately profited from real estate holdings in the Poverty Point Reservoir District after reservoir district employees performed improvements to the property the men bought for some $16,000 and later sold for roughly $250,000.
The Supreme Court decided to limit the scope of the indictment's language in reviewing the conviction of Skilling, a former Enron executive, agreeing with his appeal that the "honest services" law used to convict him was unconstitutionally vague.
The court's majority opinion in the case, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, proscribed the law to "a criminal defendant who participated in a bribery or kickback scheme."
Charges against Coenen, Thompson and Denmon didn't rise to the level proscribed in the Skilling case, the court decided.
"The sad truth is that the indictment should have never been filed in the first place. Mr. Coenen, his family, and the citizens of the 5th district deserved much better than this ill-conceived federal debacle," Small said in a prepared statement released after the dismissal.
The dismissal was issued on the same day Thompson, former executive director of the Poverty Point Reservoir District, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison on a separate conviction for using district employees to work on his private property.