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Louisiana official acquitted of bribery charge

Most criminal charges in Louisiana courts rest on the question of whether the defendant was actually responsible for the crime, but for white collar crime charges often the central question is whether a crime occurred. After all, when someone is murdered, there is typically no question as to whether a crime was committed. By contrast, when someone is accused of money laundering or insider trading, the court must look at complicated, technical evidence and determine whether any of the behavior broke the law.

Recently, a Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development official was acquitted of bribery charges. The man was accused of accepting $800 from the owner of a Baton Rouge deli in exchange for securing a permit for the restaurant. Prosecutors had a videotape of the man accepting the money. Still, a jury unanimously found the man not guilty.

In his defense, the official argued that he had never asked for or expected any money from the deli owner. He further argued that there was no evidence he had speeded up the deli's permit process in exchange for the money. One of his attorneys suggested that the official may have done something stupid in accepting the money, but there was no evidence he had committed a crime.

White collar crimes is a loosely defined term that covers crimes such as bribery, embezzlement, fraud and insider trading. These crimes typically involve financial matters, and often very complicated financial actions. To defend oneself against these charges requires interpreting these arcane financial maneuvers into something the jury and the court can understand and showing either that the behavior was not illegal or that the defendant was not the person responsible.

Because the evidence in these cases can be so technically complicated, explaining it can be tricky. Louisiana residents accused of white collar crimes need to make sure they understand their legal rights and the possible criminal defenses.

Source: The Advocate, "State transportation official acquitted of bribery," Joe Gyan Jr., Jan, 17, 2014

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