GONZALES – Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa has been indicted by a grand jury on public bribery charges.
Matassa is accused of offering a bribe to get a man running for office in Gonzales to drop out of the race. Last year, a team of investigators met with District Attorney Ricky Babin about the case. Babin has since recused his office, and the State Attorney General's Office took over.
Audio recordings released last year by the Pelican Post Newspaper appeared to show Matassa and another businessman in Ascension Parish offering a bribe to Wayne Lawson, a candidate for Gonzales City Council. Lawson claims he was offered $1,200 to drop out of the race and was promised a job by Matassa if he made a fast exit.
Matassa's attorney, Lance Unglesby said last year Matassa was just offering a loan to a friend.
"This is not a bribe," Unglesby said. "The word bribe is being loosely used here. It's personal advice from one friend to another, not a bribe at all. Bribe would be the best interest of the councilman who would be the opponent of Mr. Lawson who my client has hardly ever met."
Also indicted Friday was Olin Berthelot. Berthelot was indicted on the same charge. Prosecutors said he and Matassa had the conversation with Lawson about dropping out of the race.
Image (left to right): Kenny Matassa, Olin Berthelot after being booked into jail
As he bonded out of jail on a $5,000 bail Friday night, Matassa said: "I just want to say I didn't do nothing wrong, and I love being parish president of Ascension."
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