Ex-BP executive’s charge dismissed
NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge has dismissed a charge that is the backbone of the case against a former BP executive accused of concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil spewing in 2010 from the company’s blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Defense attorney Reid Weingarten called it a huge victory for David Rainey, who was BP’s vice president of exploration for the Gulf.
The charge of obstructing Congress thrown out Monday by U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt “was perhaps as much as 90 percent of the government’s evidence,” Weingarten said.
Rainey still faces one count of making false statements to law enforcement agents.
La. revokes company’s explosives licenses
An explosives recycling company that authorities said improperly stored millions of pounds of a military propellant, causing the evacuation of a Louisiana town last year, was stripped of its state explosives licenses on Monday.
Louisiana State Police spokeswoman Julie Lewis said Explo System Inc.’s state explosives licenses will remain revoked “pending the adjudication of all civil and/or criminal violations.”
The company has not been charged with any crimes, but state and federal investigations are ongoing.
A message left Monday at Explo System’s office was not immediately returned.
Explo Systems had a multimillion-dollar military contract to dismantle military propelling charges that are used to fire artillery rounds. The company operated on space leased at Camp Minden, a Louisiana National Guard installation in northwest Louisiana.
Coroner to turn
over 80K emails
BATON ROUGE — Lawyers say St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan has agreed to give nearly 80,000 emails to the state legislative auditor by late Friday morning, and to have a judge decide whether another 2,000 should be turned over.
State attorney Jenifer Schaye and Billy Gibbens, representing the coroner, described the agreement Monday to state District Judge William Morvant in Baton Rouge. The agreement averted a scheduled contempt hearing.
Schaye represented Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, who is investigating reports about lavish spending and inflated salaries. She says it’s unusual for the subject of an audit to refuse to turn over documents. A subpoena called for emails among Galvan and five top staffers.
Purpura took the case to court in April because the coroner’s office refused to comply with a legislative subpoena.
Gibbens told the judge the 80,000 emails cover a nine-year period.
ALEXANDRIA— A 42-year-old DeQuincy man is facing dozens of stalking-related charges after officials allege he followed the Glenmora-area victim throughout Rapides Parish.
Rapides Parish sheriff’s deputies said the complaint against Daniel Aaron Christensen was made on May 3, alleging that Christensen had followed the victim around the parish and had rented multiple vehicles to do so.
Elite getting incentives for Metro Airport flights
BATON ROUGE — Baton Rouge Metro Airport will give a standard incentive package to Elite Airways when the company begins flying out of the market in July.
Jim Caldwell, an airport spokesman, said Elite Airways will get a two-year waiver on landing fees and rent. Metro Airport will also help support advertising for the startup airline and could put up as much as $100,000 a year for two years.
Eunice man killed,
2 others wounded
RAYNE — An 18-year-old Eunice man was shot and later died after he and two others were attacked in the small Acadia Parish community of Branch north of Rayne.
Sheriff Wayne Melancon said D’Andre Goodley died Sunday at Acadia-St. Landry Hospital.
Authorities did not release the names and conditions of the other two victims, who were transported to the hospital with gunshot wounds.
Melancon said the shootings followed an altercation involving the victims.
Red-light camera amnesty considered
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette City-Parish Council is expected to consider a 30-day amnesty period for motorists who are late paying red-light camera fines, and to consider splitting late fees with contractor Redflex if the company shares the cost of collecting overdue fines.
Since the program was implemented in 2007, some motorists have refused to pay their fines and have accrued hundreds, even thousands of dollars in fines and late fees.
City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert says some owe as much as $40,000, but most owe between $125 and $300.
For at least two months, the council has delayed acting on a proposal that would create a 30-day amnesty period for overdue fines. That proposal is back on Tuesday’s agenda.
in tax refund scheme
LAFAYETTE — A 40-year-old New Iberia woman has been sentenced to 26 months in prison in a tax refund scheme that netted $77,349 that the woman used for gambling expenses.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Veta Thompson was accused of receiving the money as a refund after submitting more than $12 million in overpayments to the Internal Revenue Service from accounts that were either closed or did not have enough money.
Prosecutors say the IRS issued nine refund checks in 2009 totaling $77,349 before the agency realized the overpayments were drawn on accounts that were either closed or empty.
in school vandalism
LAFAYETTE — Police say 19 Comeaux High seniors face misdemeanor charges after they allegedly vandalized the school over the weekend.
Lafayette police Cpl. Paul Mouton says the students received misdemeanor summonses for criminal mischief and criminal trespassing for vandalizing the school grounds.
Comeaux High Principal Joe Craig said the students didn’t spray paint or destroy property, but the school wasn’t fit to open Monday.
Craig says they dumped trash barrels, turned over yard furniture. In the cafeteria, he says they turned over furniture and threw eggs against windows.
Craig says some students urinated by the cafeteria, toilet-papered trees, wrote expletives and drew lewd pictures in chalk on sidewalks and buildings.
From The Associated Press.
New Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival banners were displayed Monday at the festival office on Second Street in Morgan City. About 100 banners will be distributed to Morgan City, Berwick and Patterson to hand during July, August and September. In the back row, from left, are Peggy Acosta, festival secretary; James Fontenot, Morgan City councilman; Rodney Grow, festival vice president; Greg Price, festival board chairman; Barry Dufrene Morgan City councilman; Nelson Cortez, festival board member; Lee Delaune, festival director; and Ella Darce, assistant. Front row, from left, are Louis Ratcliff, Berwick mayor; Louis Tamporello, Morgan City councilman/festival board member; Lt. Mary Gilday, festival board member; Frank Grizzaffi, Morgan City mayor; Nathalie Weber, festival president; and Chloe Felterman, festival queen.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana’s state-regulated casinos all won less money in April than in March. The drop totals $35.8 million.
State police figures show most also won less than they did a year ago. The big exceptions were 8.7 percent one-year increases at both L’Auberge Lake Charles and the slots casino at the New Orleans Fair Grounds.
April winnings totaled $196.4 million, up $4.9 million from April 2012 — before the L’Auberge of Baton Rouge opened.
Harrah’s New Orleans took in $25.8 million, 18.3 percent below March and 3.9 percent below April 2012.
Riverboat casinos won $137.9 million, down 14.5 percent from March but up 4.9 percent from a year earlier.
Slot-machine casinos at four race tracks won $32.7 million, down 16.7 percent from March and 1.5 percent from April 2012.
Winnings from gamblers at Louisiana’s state-licensed casinos in April 2013 with totals, attendance, and average loss per customer:
Market total: $53.8, 751,075, $71.57
Boomtown: $6.4, 97,414, $66.00
Eldorado: $12.3, 229,054, $53.66
Horseshoe: $15.7, 129,190, $121.41
DiamondJacks: $5.1, 80,366, $63.48
Sam’s Town: $8.5, 120,161, $70.85
Louisiana Downs: $5.7, 94,890, $60.46
Market total: $56.5, 569,119, $99.20
Isle of Capri: $11.0, 111,871, $97.92
L’Auberge Lake Charles: $30.3, 302,962, $100.03
Delta Downs: $15.2, 154,286, $98.50
Market total: $49.4, 648,578, $76.10
Boomtown: $10.8, 124,026, $87.22
Treasure Chest: $8.9, 90,812, $97.86
Harrah’s New Orleans: $25.8, 376,477, $68.53
Fair Grounds track: $3.8, 57,263, $67.22
Market total: $24.3, 271,767, $89.54
Belle of Baton Rouge: $5.0, 71,282, $70.43
Hollywood: $7.0, 72,261, $96.97
L’Auberge Baton Rouge: $12.3, 128,224, $95.98
Amelia Belle: $4.6, 56,795, $80.42
Evangeline Downs track: $7.9, 57,263, $138.23
Riverboats: $137.9, 1,614,418, $85.41
New Orleans land: $25.8, 376,477, $68.53
Race track casinos: $32.7, 363,702, $89.91
Grand total: $196.4, 2,354,597, $83.41
BATON ROUGE (AP) — State senators rejected a proposal on Monday for Louisiana to offer government-subsidized health insurance to the working poor through the federal health overhaul law known as the Affordable Care Act.
The 7-3 vote by the Senate Finance Committee largely fell along party lines, with all but one Republican voting against tapping into the federal Medicaid dollars available for the health coverage.
Sen. Karen Carter Peterson’s bill would have required the state health department to seek federal approval for a program using the Medicaid expansion dollars to provide private insurance coverage to adults making up to 138 percent of the poverty level — less than $32,000 for a family of four. The federal government would cover much of the cost.
A similar proposal is scheduled for a House vote Tuesday, but passage seems like a long-shot at best. Gov. Bobby Jindal and Republican Party leaders oppose the expansion, which was authorized under the health revamp championed by President Barack Obama.
Peterson, D-New Orleans, said the insurance expansion would improve health care for thousands of Louisiana citizens who work at low-wage jobs and can’t afford the coverage on their own, while also providing an influx of dollars for health care providers.
“How in good conscience can we turn down 100 percent of anything that we know will tend to the needs of working class people?” said Peterson, leader of the Louisiana Democratic Party.
Rob Tasman, representing the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops backed the proposal as consistent with church teachings that support the life and dignity of people and consider health care a basic right.
“Let’s elevate the status of the poor today, the uninsured,” Tasman said.
About one in five Louisiana residents are uninsured. Estimates are that as many as 400,000 uninsured people would be eligible for Medicaid under the insurance expansion.
Jindal says the increased insurance coverage would be too costly for Louisiana and could shift people from private insurance to government-funded health care. His health secretary, Kathy Kliebert, said Monday that the modified bill seeking to use the federal Medicaid money for private insurance doesn’t change the administration’s concerns.
“We do not see this as a worthwhile plan for the state of Louisiana,” she told the Senate Finance Committee.
Kliebert, interim secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, said the private insurance model is unworkable because of federal restrictions governing the Medicaid funding. She said the Affordable Care Act doesn’t offer enough flexibility to tailor an insurance program to Louisiana’s needs.
In response to criticism that the Jindal administration hasn’t offered an alternative, Kliebert pointed to the privatization of the LSU-run hospitals that provide safety net care to the uninsured. She said the efforts will improve access and health services.
Sen. Fred Mills, R-Breaux Bridge, noted that only three deals have been signed for the 10 hospitals — and that questions have been raised about whether the financing is available to support the arrangements.
Mills sought to delay action on Peterson’s bill while awaiting further details about the ongoing efforts to privatize the LSU hospitals. He couldn’t get enough votes for such a delay, however. He was the lone Republican senator to vote against shelving Peterson’s bill.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office estimates the Medicaid expansion could save Louisiana as much as $510 million over 10 years, with the state receiving up to $15 billion in federal funding. The Jindal administration disputes the fiscal office analysis.