If AG wants to call Unglesby’s bluff, sever Berthelot and try Matassa in January

Pair of Aces or just two jokers?

Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.  The bribery trial of Criminal-Defendant Kenny Matassa was scheduled for March 13, 2018 after the Court rejected his Motion to Quash the March 10, 2016 indictment against him and Olin Berthelot.  Rather than appeal the Court’s October 18 denial of the motion, which would have dismissed Matassa’s charge, Lewis Unglesby filed pleadings seeking “the trial by jury be reassigned as early in the month of January, 2018.”

Give Kenny what he wants!

Pursuant to the motion filed by Unglesby on Matassa’s behalf on November 3, Judge Jason Verdigets “will set a telephone conference with all parties to attempt to set a closer trial date” and follow it up with hearing on December 11 to consider Matassa’s request.

Unglesby writes:

“The State has advised that it has finished all discovery and investigation and turned over all its evidence to the accused.  The accused wants this matter concluded as soon as possible.  (Unglesby) has scheduling conflicts with previously set trials for March 19-31, April 9-18, and April 30th forward.  At the time this matter was set, the Court suggested counsel file a motion to adjust the schedule.

The case can be tried within two weeks and the accused can start anytime in January.  Efforts to call the prosecutor have been unsuccessful so defendant does not know the State’s position.”

Since Matassa has a co-defendant, another attorney’s schedule comes into play and, dollars to donuts, Steven Moore has conflicts in January.  This is a ploy to delay trial beyond March 13; a stone bluff to curry favor with the pool of potential jurors, adult citizens of Ascension Parish.  The prosecution has the tools to call Unglesby’s bluff and take all Matassa’s chips…and do so expeditiously.

Louisiana’s Code of Criminal Procedure Article 704:  Severance

Jointly indicted defendants shall be tried jointly unless:

(1)  The state elects to try them separately; or

(2)  The court, on motion of the defendant, and after contradictory hearing with the district attorney, is satisfied that justice requires a severance.

Prosecutor Jeff Traylor can choose to try Matassa and Berthelot separately; Unglesby and/or Moore may seek separate trials for their respective clients.  Code of Criminal Procedure Article 706 allows either defendant to seek consolidation of the defendants for trial, but the ultimate decision rests with the Court, as does scheduling the trial date(s) for Matassa and/or Berthelot.

On October 18 Judge Verdigets fast-tracked the proceedings (after denial of Matassa’s Motion to Quash).  Is the Court serious about expediting justice?

The prosecutor, in keeping with prosecutorial custom, has been tight-lipped.  Jeff Traylor did say, on August 14:

“I want this case to get to trial as soon as possible so the people of Ascension Parish can know what their parish president has been up to.”

Make it happen.

If it’s hardball you have a mind to play, subpoena Olin Berthelot to testify for the prosecution against Matassa.