Louisiana District Attorney sexually assaulted 20+ women. Two of them turned up dead of overdoses. 911 audio recorded what seems the entire police and sheriff’s personnel attempting to cover up and protect the sexual predator (local District Attorney Harry Morel) rather than believe or protect his victims.

Morel pleaded guilty to a single count of obstruction. U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said it was the strongest charge among the allegations, and that pursuing others presented evidentiary challenges. As part of his plea bargain agreement, however, Morel admitted that he solicited sex from defendants and others with pending court cases.

Former Prosecutor Harry Morel Jr’s Criminal Information by Syndicated News SNN.BZ on Scribd

John Landry III, St. Charles Hospital Chairman

Another potential defendant, John Landry III, who was chairman of St. Charles Parish Hospital, told investigators that he fabricated community service letters for three women at Morel’s request.

Morel’s successor as district attorney, Joel Chaisson II, let Landry resign from the hospital board and enter a diversion program instead of prosecuting him.

In the FBI records, released Sept. 19, are excerpted conversations indicating Keim and Morel kissed and touched.

They also show Morel helped reduce a drunk-driving charge against her and falsified documents to show that Keim had performed court-ordered community service when she did not. Among the records is this video of a meeting between Keim and Morel, during which they discuss her court-ordered community service and he later asks her for a kiss:

The meeting occurred two years after Keim called the Sheriff’s Office to report a sexual assault by Morel. That call led to the FBI recruiting her to help investigate him. A few months earlier, the Sheriff’s Office had received a call from another woman who reported that Morel propositioned her in exchange for helping her husband, who was in jail, Sheriff Greg Champagne has said.

Another video — which includes profanity — shows Morel talking with Keim about a camera memory card:

After Morel pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt handed down the maximum sentence for that charge: three years in prison. In May, the Louisiana Supreme Court stripped Morel of his law license, barring him from practice for life.

Joel Chaisson II

This is the culmination of a story about allegations surrounding the former DA that he traded sex for prosecutorial leniency that was first reported back on September 9, 2011.

It also marks something of an embarrassment for his successor, Joel Chaisson II. The day before Morel announced his retirement in 2011, to clear the way for his daughter, Michele, to run for district judge, he hired Chaisson’s brother, John, as an assistant district attorney.

Chaisson, president of the Louisiana Senate, quickly announced he would run for district attorney, a race he won with no opposition.

Joel Chaisson also contributed $2,500 to Michele Morel’s 2012 campaign. She won, edging opponent Tim Marcel by 168 votes, to complete the term of another Chaisson brother, Robert, who had been elected to Louisiana’s 5th Circuit Court of Appeal.

And when Joel Chaisson took office, he hired Harry Morel as an assistant district attorney at an annual salary of $44,000. That was in addition to the $146,227 annual pension Morel began collecting in retirement.

Chaisson denied there was a deal.

In any event when the former DA become too hot to continue the mutual back scratching, the new DA threw the old one under the bus.

Those wishing to review Slabbed’s archival coverage of this story can click here.

FBI agent Michael Zummer

The FBI suspended Zummer without pay during the summer and escorted him out of the bureau’s New Orleans field office pending the results of an internal inquiry to determine whether he mishandled “sensitive material.”

The suspension, Grassley wrote, “looks like it could be a misuse of the security clearance process to mask retaliation for protected whistleblowing.”

The agent had been pushing for prosecutors to pursue more serious charges against Morel, according to FBI records.

Danelle Keim, died of supposed overdose

Morel was sentenced this year to three years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, a charge that stemmed from his efforts to derail a multi-year FBI probe into his sexual misconduct.

As federal authorities take a second look at a once-rejected case involving alleged misconduct by former longtime St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel, newly released evidence in a related case suggests that the woman who was expected to be the government’s star witness against Morel was wearing a wire at the FBI’s request in the months before she died of a drug overdose.

The investigation into the death of Danelle Keim also turned up the name of a second woman Morel allegedly offered leniency to in exchange for sexual favors. But like Keim, that woman, Melissa Silvestri, can no longer cooperate with authorities; she died Feb. 14 at the age of 34, of an apparent drug overdose.

Melissa Silvestri, died of supposed overdose

A year after Keim’s death, the name of an alleged second victim, Melissa Silvestri, also surfaced in the Morel case. She also had died of an apparent drug overdose.

Although Keim had become the most notable figure in the case, Champagne emphasized it was also based on evidence from at least 20 women that lent to Morel being labeled “a sexual predator.”

And this number could still be growing.

Champagne said he got an April 25 phone call from someone naming still another potential victim in Morel’s case.The sheriff emphasized that Keim is “a small part of a pattern of criminal behavior” that surfaced in the FBI’s continuing investigation on  Morel.

As the years progressed, Champagne said the federal agency’s thorough and extensive review of thousands of court documents including child support and DWIs subpoenaed from the Clerk of Court office took time toward building a case.Champagne said they also dealt with obstacles in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

While U.S. Attorney Jim Letten for the Eastern District of Louisiana at the time was pursuing the Morel case, Letten resigned in December 2012 amid a scandal where two of his top deputies were exposed using the Internet to attack people being investigated by their office.

Interim U.S. Attorney Dana Boente declined the Morel case. By December 2013, Kenneth Polite Jr., who had been appointed to the position by President Barrack Obama, said he’d reconsider the investigation and then pursued it.

Champagne said it meant rebuilding the case from scratch and that also took time.

It wasn’t until April 5 that Polite announced Morel had accepted a deal in return for pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.According to Champagne, “The investigation uncovered that over many years, dozens of women reported similar stories.During the most vulnerable times in their lives they were victimized by Morel and pressured to provide sex in return for leniency. In at least three cases, this leniency consisted of Morel obtaining falsified community service letters from a local businessman.”

Throughout this time, however, the sheriff said they could not comment about an ongoing investigation.

Additionally, Champagne knew Morel better than most having worked for him as an assistant DA from 1982 to 1996.“I had no idea he was soliciting women charged for sexual favors,” he said of his time in the DA office. “I had a funny feeling and decided to make the move. I couldn’t put a finger on it at the time. Something didn’t feel right.”

By 1995, Champagne said he had decided to make the career move of running for sheriff and Morel supported his first run for the office.

As the investigation into Morel unfolded, Champagne said the extent of his criminal behavior “was worse than we had thought” when numerous women either approached the Sheriff’s Office with evidence or were identified by the FBI as subpoenaed records revealed their involvement.

“It was disgusting,” he said. “This is worse than taking bribes – trading sex is dehumanizing … doing it with women who live on the fringe of society. Your freedom is literally in his control.”

With Morel facing sentencing, Champagne said the important message now is that it’s not only important to report public corruption but to reasonably assume something will be done about it if justified.

“To all the women who were victimized by this predator and bared your souls: All of you need to understand that you were and are victims,” the sheriff said. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are victims.”

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