Matassa acquitted by Directed Verdict

Matassa and his attorney (file photo)

Kenny Matassa was acquitted by Directed Verdict of Judge Tommy Kliebert moments ago.  Finding none of the state’s witnesses proved the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, Matassa avoided putting on a defense.  Before breaking for lunch Kliebert admitted the contents of a 45-minute recording into evidence, reading a transcript during the lunch break after both parties stipulated to its accuracy.

Three other recordings, all captured on the phone of alleged bribery target Wayne Lawson, were never admitted into evidence.  Lawson was present but not called to the witness stand a second time after appearing on Tuesday and offering less than convincing testimony.  Supposed to be the star witness after cutting a deal announced by the Attorney General’s office on Monday, co-defendant Olin Berthelot said nothing at all which incriminated his co-defendant.

Berthelot was the final witness called by the prosecution.  A party to that 45-minute conversation along with Matassa and Wayne Lawson, he was not asked to explain any of its contents.  Three other recordings captured on Lawson’s cell phone were never admitted, in part because Lawson could not identify the voices he had heard, couldn’t recall the dates when recorded, and was not a credible witness in any sense.

Lawson appeared at the courthouse this afternoon but was not recalled to the stand after Berthelot finished testifying for the defense.

On Monday it was revealed that the AG’s agreement with Berthelot means the worst that can happen to him is a misdemeanor conviction; other possibilities are an outright dismissal of the indictment via the Pre-Trial Diversion program or otherwise.  In return, Berthelot had to testify truthfully for the prosecution.  Just prior to that testimony it was an outwardly confident Jeff Traylor, the lead prosecutor who predicted effective testimony.

“It was positively no bribe.”

That’s how Berthelot characterized his agreed upon testimony with the AG.

“Money was never going to get tossed around in return for a withdrawal (by Lawson from the election).”

None of which should come as a surprise from Berthelot, but why would the prosecution cut a deal for it?

Berthelot claimed he never instructed his employee that Lawson was to sign the affidavit to withdraw from the race; and then be given an envelope containing nine $100 bills. From July 29, 2016:

Wayne Lawson: “Tammy gonna’ hand me the money, with $1200 in an envelope soon as I come through the door?”

Olin Berthelot: “Well, once you sign we gonna’ go ahead and complete everything.  It’s gonna’ be hand in hand.  You sign and it’ll be presented, the changes we need to take care of the situation…She’s gonna’ take care of everything.  She’s been given instructions…It’s not a check…Once you sign everything’s gonna’ be very smooth.  There’ll be no questions asked on our side.”

The employee in question also said her instructions from Berthelot were to have Lawson execute the withdrawal form before handing over…

None of which made it into the prosecution’s questioning of Olin Berthelot, not even to impeach his credibility.  Berthelot was allowed to testify as to comments made by Matassa, and by Lawson, during cross-examination without a single objection from Traylor based upon hearsay.  It is doubtful that any prosecution could have been softer…and the AG failed to meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt by a long shot.