Sister conflicted in ex-prosecutor’s sentence in New Orleans

In this Monday, Aug. 8, 2016 photo, Tessie Keim, whose sister, Danelle Keim, was a key witness in the case against former St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel before she died of a drug overdose in 2013, pauses while speaking at her home in Destrahan, La. Former Louisiana prosecutor Harry Morel, 73, is accused of soliciting sex from at least 20 women in exchange for favorable treatment faces sentencing, Wednesday Aug. 17, 2016, on a single charge of obstruction of justice. Morel faces a maximum of three years in prison under his guilty plea. According to the FBI and the local sheriff, the 73-year-old prosecutor solicited sex from at least 20 women, including Danelle Keim, in exchange for favorable treatment. Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert, AP Photo

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The Latest on ex-prosecutor accused of soliciting sex for leniency: (all times local): 

10:25 a.m. – The sister of a woman whose sister touched off an investigation of a Louisiana prosecutor talked of conflicting feelings after 73-year-old Harry Morel was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to three years in prison.

Tessie Keim said justice was not served because Morel “didn’t get charged with what he should have been.”

At a news conference when his plea agreement was announced in April, prosecutors and investigators called Morel a sexual predator. But he was never charged with a sex crime.

But Tessie Keim said her family also is excited that he got any prison time and is happy that the judge gave him the maximum.

She is the sister of Danelle Keim, who began wearing a wire for the FBI. Danelle Keim died of a drug overdose in 2013, less than 24 hours after The Times-Picayune newspaper reported that the FBI was investigating whether Morel had been trading leniency for sex with defendants or their relatives.

Harry Morel, a former district attorney for St. Charles Parish, La., arrives with his attorney Ralph Capitelli, right, at Federal Court in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 20, 2016. Morel is charged with obstructing a federal investigation. A bill of information filed by prosecutors said he harassed an unidentified witness in a federal grand jury investigation. Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert, AP Photo
Harry Morel, a former district attorney for St. Charles Parish, La., arrives with his attorney Ralph Capitelli, right, at Federal Court in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 20, 2016. Morel is charged with obstructing a federal investigation. A bill of information filed by prosecutors said he harassed an unidentified witness in a federal grand jury investigation. Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert, AP Photo

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10:00 a.m. – A former Louisiana prosecutor has been sentenced to three years in prison for obstructing justice, though prosecutors accuse him of soliciting sex from women in exchange for favorable treatment.

Seventy-three-year-old Harry Morel was sentenced Wednesday in federal court.

He was district attorney for 33 years in St. Charles Parish, about 20 miles west of New Orleans.

At a news conference when his plea agreement was announced in April, prosecutors and investigators called him a sexual predator. But he was never charged with a sex crime.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said that was because time limits had passed on some crimes, and prosecutors faced both significant problems with evidence and victims whose personal histories could make them difficult witnesses.

Defense attorney Ralph Capitelli has accused prosecutors of a smear campaign to influence sentencing.

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2:30 a.m. – A former Louisiana prosecutor who was accused of soliciting sex from at least 20 women in exchange for favorable treatment faces his own sentencing Wednesday in federal court on an obstruction charge.

Harry Morel, 73, was district attorney for 33 years in St. Charles Parish, about 20 miles west of New Orleans. Now he faces a maximum of three years in prison after pleading guilty to the single charge.

The deal closed the case, reflecting the difficulty of balancing the scales of justice between a powerful defendant and vulnerable victims.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said that statutes of limitations on some alleged crimes, and the death of a key witness played into the eventual plea bargain.

Defense attorney Ralph Capitelli has accused prosecutors of a smear campaign to influence sentencing.

The FBI began investigating Morel in April 2010, after a woman facing a drunken driving charge accused Morel of sexually assaulting her at her home.

Danelle Keim then began wearing a wire for the FBI. Authorities say one video shows Morel coming to Keim’s house with two bottles of wine, discussing her case, and then starting to grope her.

But Keim died of a drug overdose in 2013, less than 24 hours after The Times-Picayune newspaper reported that the FBI was investigating whether Morel had been trading leniency for sex with defendants or their relatives.

Morel’s guilty plea acknowledged his telling Keim to destroy photographic evidence of their meetings.

 

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