HAHNVILLE, La. — An FBI agent filed an ethics complaint after federal prosecutors initially declined several years ago to bring charges against a former Louisiana district attorney accused of trading sex for leniency, according to a document released Monday.
The document, an FBI-created PowerPoint presentation, reveals that the agent filed the complaint against a prosecutor from the U.S. attorney’s office in New Orleans who co-owned a condominium with an attorney for former St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel.
Neither the FBI agent nor the prosecutor is named in the document, but St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne confirmed it was created by Special Agent Mike Zummer.
Last week, a federal judge refused to order the release of a 31-page letter that Zummer submitted after Morel pleaded guilty to obstructing the FBI investigation. The judge said Zummer’s letter raised legitimate concerns that the Justice Department is either “unable or unwilling” to self-police ethical lapses within its ranks.
Morel’s attorney, Ralph Capitelli, called Zummer a “rogue agent” during a telephone interview Monday after the sheriff’s office released the PowerPoint presentation in response to reporters’ public records requests.
Capitelli said it wasn’t a secret that he co-owned a condominium with Fred Harper, a federal prosecutor who once served as first assistant U.S. attorney in New Orleans.
“Fred Harper had nothing to do with the (Morel) case. He wasn’t even involved in the decision-making process,” Capitelli said. “Zummer’s complaint was dismissed and found to lack any merit whatsoever.”
Harper said during a telephone interview that the complaint filed with the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General “was reviewed by the appropriate authorities and found to be unsubstantiated.”
“I’m not going to comment on unsubstantiated rumors,” he said.
Zummer’s PowerPoint presentation includes a timeline for the FBI investigation of Morel and discloses graphic details of his sexual overtures to a woman, Danelle Keim, who agreed to cooperate with the FBI and wear a wire. The reference to the agent’s ethics complaint is only mentioned on one of the 87 slides.
“When (the U.S. attorney’s office) was notified of FBI’s concern about condo, First AUSA put his portion of condo in girlfriend’s name,” the slide says. “(The U.S. attorney’s office) then declined the case before FBI had chance to find additional witnesses.”
But the case was revived by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite after he took office in 2013 and appointed a different first assistant. Polite said he considers the agent’s ethics complaint to be “irrelevant.”
“The decision to decline the case was made by two previous U.S. attorneys and those U.S. attorneys alone,” Polite said.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt sentenced Morel to three years in prison for obstructing the federal investigation. The judge received the letter from Zummer two days before the sentencing hearing. Federal prosecutors had asked Engelhardt to seal the letter.
In his ruling last week, Engelhardt wrote that he shares Zummer’s concerns about the Justice Department and found the agent’s correspondence to be “particularly interesting (and troubling, to say the least).” The judge said Zummer’s letter provided information about internal communications at the FBI and the Justice Department “as well as his disagreement with various prosecutorial decisions.”
During an extraordinary news conference after Morel’s guilty plea earlier this year, state and federal authorities accused Morel of being a sexual predator who solicited sex from at least 20 women in exchange for favorable treatment from his office. But they haven’t charged Morel with any sex crimes. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office declined to bring any additional charges against Morel, according to Champagne.