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|Mike Thompson trial delayed|
No date has been set for the trial of former Poverty Point Reservoir District director Mike Thompson, who is accused by federal prosecutors of extortion and theft involving property Thompson owned at Poverty Point in Richland Parish.
Thomson is a brother of state Sen. Francis Thompson of Delhi.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Robbie James granted a motion to continue. Thompson's attorney, Mike Small of Alexandria, requested the continuance because he is tied up with an unrelated court matter in Lafayette.
Thompson was indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2007 on charges of extortion and of improperly benefiting from his position as resevoir district director.
In motions filed last year in federal court in Monroe, Small questioned the validity of charges filed by the government against Thompson.
"The indictment alleges no facts upon which the charged offense is based," Small wrote in a July 2007 motion.
Following Small's motion, federal prosecutors provided more than four pages detailing work completed by a Poverty Point Resevoir District employee on property owned by Thompson. The work was paid for by the reservoir district.
Meanwhile, Thompson faces conspiracy and mail fraud charges in a separate case related to his post at the resevoir district. In that case, Thompson is charged along with business partners Terry Denmon of Monroe and 5th Judicial District Attorney Billy Coenen.
Both the corruption case against Thompson and the second mail fraud case against him and his partners are being handled by assistant U.S. Attorney Mignonne Griffing, under the direction of U.S. Attorney Donald Washington.
Griffing and Small were unavailable for comment Wednesday.
In the case against Thompson that was scheduled to begin in January, prosecutors outlined more than 30 instances of work from September 1997-June 2002, which was administered to property owned by Thompson. A resevoir district employee conducted the work. The work was billed to the resevoir district.
The government contends that over a period of six years, Thompson had a reservoir district employee perform work on his personal property, including tasks such as building steps and picking up lumber for delivery to property Thompson owns in the district.
In each of the instances, prosecutors detailed the number of hours the employee worked as well as the amount billed per hour, with the charges varying from $10 to $12 per hour for hundreds of hours worth of work over the six-year period.
Federal prosecutors argue the work and payments constituted a breach of the Hobbs Act, a federal law aimed at racketeering that is often used by federal prosecutors in public corruption cases.
According to a two-page indictment filed in U.S. District Court, Thompson "did knowingly, willfully and unlawfully obstruct, delay, affect and attempt to obstruct, delay and affect commerce and the movement of articles and commodities in commerce by extortion."
Also, the indictment alleges Thompson "unlawfully obtained property, that is, funds," of the resevoir district because the payments were for goods and service rendered on his behalf – not on behalf of the resevoir district.
A status hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18, where U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Hayes is expected to set a new trial date.
Because of the detailed nature of the charges against him, Thompson has waived his right to a speedy trial, meaning there is no set time limit on when the case must go to court.