Thursday, June 26, 2008

Federal grand jury indicts district attorney Coenen, Denmon, Thompson

The Ouachita Citizen - by Michael DeVault - posted Monroe businessman and engineer Terry Denmon was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Shreveport on charges of conspiracy and mail fraud involving a land deal at Poverty Point Reservoir in Richland Parish.

Also indicted were 5th District Attorney Billy Coenen and Poverty Point Reservoir District executive director Mike Thompson.

Thompson, brother of state Sen. Francis Thompson, was previously indicted by a federal grand jury over charges stemming from a federal investigation of Poverty Point Reservoir.

According to a copy of the indictment obtained by The Ouachita Citizen, beginning in 1995, Coenen, Denmon and Thompson conspired to purchase land near the reservoir and then used public equipment and money to make improvements to the land before selling it for some $250,000.

Denmon worked as a contractor for PPRD to provide engineering services. Coenen performed legal services for the reservoir district at the 3,000 acre lake. Both men were paid for those services by the PPRD, a state agency, according to the indictment.

In February, 1995, the group purchased a five-acre tract of land in the reservoir district for $16,800, the indictment said.

Because the three men each had interests in the reservoir district's management, they purchased the property through an unnamed agent, according to the indictment.

In July, 1998, Thompson ordered PPRD employees to remove a stand of trees on the property, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, it was the first of many improvements Thompson would make on the property before the group subdivided the tract into 5 lots in 2000.

Eventually, the group sold all five lots and pocketed some $250,000, according to the indictment.

"This prosecution is wrongheaded and frankly represents federal government overreaching at its absolute worst," said Mike Small, a noted defense attorney from Alexandria.

"This assistant U.S. attorney has taken an alleged violation of the state code of ethics, which never occurred, and parlayed it into a federal criminal case," Small said, referring to Assistant U.S. Attorney Mignonne Griffing, who is a native of Sicily Island.

"It is a sad example of a very disturbing trend on the part of federal prosecutors to meddle into purely state matters where they have no business whatsoever," Small continued. "We'll clean their clock in court and clearly show that Billy Coenen is absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing.

"Unfortunately, the publicity surrounding this indictment will have already besmirched the reputation of a decent man who has tirelessly devoted the last 30 years of his life to aggressively prosecuting real criminals in the jurisdiction where he lives and serves as district attorney."

The indictment cites Louisiana Revised Statute 42:1112, which states, "no public servant...shall participate in a transaction in which he has a personal substantial economic interest of which he may be reasonably expected to know involving the governmental entity."

The indictment contends that, because each of the three men worked as consultants for PPRD, they were forbidden from profiting from land deals therein.


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