Former St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel Jr. was sentenced to three years in federal prison today (Aug. 17) after pleading guilty in April to obstruction of justice in connection with an FBI investigation into his allegedly trading leniency for sex.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt sentenced St. Charles Parish’s longtime DA to the maximum three-year prison sentence based on a plea deal struck in April.
Morel, 73, also was sentenced to one year supervised release after imprisonment and a $20,000 fine.
Morel was charged in connection with a lengthy FBI investigation into accusations that he traded leniency for sex with up to 20 women. He admitted to harassing Danelle Keim, a key witness against him who aided the investigation by wearing a wire.
Keim, who lived in St. Rose, died in 2013.
Engelhardt’s sentencing closed a three-year FBI investigation that resulted in Morel admitting to harassing Keim.
Morel, who during his tenure as the parish’s DA had authority to make sentence recommendations and dismiss or reduce charges, was accused of abusing this power to trade lenience for sex in cases he handled.
U.S. District Attorney Kenneth Polite said he “freely admitted that he is guilty of obstruction of justice” in harassing Keim in an attempt to “get rid of” and “destroy” evidence she had against Morel. Convinced there would be a federal Grand Jury investigation, Morel asked “her to conceal information that would have likely led to her being a witness before that body.”
Ralph Capitelli, Morel’s attorney, said the District Attorney’s comments were aimed at smearing Morel.
But Polite said Morel admitted on other occasions between 2007 and 2009 that he solicited sex from other individuals who were defendants or who had family members who were defendants in the St. Charles Parish criminal justice system.
Authorities have put Morel’s alleged female victims at up to 24, but they have not been named.
“When soliciting sex from these individuals, Morel likewise used the office of the District Attorney to provide benefits to these other individuals, including falsifying community service reports.”
According to transcripts of FBI recordings on Keim and Morel conversations, Morel told Keim to destroy evidence that could implicate him in the FBI investigation into accusations against him that he was trading plea deals in return for sex.
Morel told her to destroy a camera memory card with photographs taken by Keim’s then boyfriend that show both their vehicles at the St. Charles Parish Courthouse and Satellite Office at night on July 4, 2011. He further told her that he could destroy the card and to tell investigators it did not exist.
According to Polite,”Harry Morel could make things go away, but he wanted sexual acts in exchange.”
He said Morel preyed on women who needed help enforcing child support obligations, had children in trouble with the law or were in trouble with the law themselves.
“We suspect this pattern of conduct has been going on for many decades,” Polite said.
On June 20, St. Charles Parish Hospital Board Chairman John Landry III was arrested and charged on four counts of filing false public records and four counts of conspiracy to file false records in connection with Morel’s case.
Landry, also locally known as owner of the Boutte Bingo Hall, has been implicated with Morel in having filed fraudulent public records with the St. Charles DA Office on behalf of Keim. She had pleaded guilty to a DWI charge after Morel secured an attorney to represent her and then gave her 64 hours of community service.
Keim did not perform the service and Landry is accused of fabricating the documents that falsely state otherwise, according to FBI evidence in the case. Landry signed the letters as “community service director of the Luling-Boutte Lions Charter President.”
Landry’s arrest warrant states Morel and Landry also did this for two other women in 2012.