Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Federal Government Wants Harsher Sentence for Former Councilman Oliver Thomas

After signing a plea agreement in which he promised to cooperate with authorities, former New Orleans' City Councilman Oliver Thomas told FBI agents and federal prosecutors during his second debriefing session that he "did not wish to be a 'rat,' " according to the sentencing memorandum filed by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office. Thomas then refused to discuss his possible knowledge of other crimes, according to the memo.

Ironically, Thomas' own crime came to the attention of authorities as a result of another convict's cooperation.

Restaurateur and political operative Stan "Pampy" Barre, who is awaiting sentencing for his role in skimming money from a City Hall energy contract, told authorities that Thomas had extorted roughly $15,000 in bribes from him in exchange for a pledge that he would help Barre retain a portion of a French Quarter parking contract.

Thomas also directed Barre to take on a partner, Joseph Jourdain, the brother of one of his aides.

Barre initially provided little useful information to prosecutors after he pleaded guilty to three felony charges in January. But that changed after one of his co-conspirators, former city Property Management Director Kerry DeCay, was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to the same charges.

The harsh sentence -- which owed in part to DeCay's lack of cooperation -- seemed to serve as a wake-up call to Barre. Less than two months later, prosecutors had persuaded Thomas to plead guilty to bribery charges based on information provided by Barre.

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