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Trial for Iberia Parish Clerk of Court continues

Posted: 7:40 PM, May 24, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-24 20:41:56-04
Iberia Parish Clerk of Court Michael Thibodeaux. Photo Courtesy: LA Clerks of Court Association.

Iberia Parish Clerk of Court Michael Thibodeaux returned to court Friday where jurors heard further testimony from the trial’s extensive list of witnesses.

The trial resumed late Friday morning in 16th Judicial District Judge Lewis Pitman’s courtroom with continued testimony from Thibodeaux’s former confidant and Deputy Clerk of Court Tracey Hebert. Hebert answered more questions from John McLindon, the attorney leading Thibodeaux’s defense, which centered around how the Louisiana State Police approached Hebert about making a secret recording.

The video recording is from 2017 and shows Thibodeaux speaking with Hebert about the excess funds collected from services rendered by the clerk’s office front desk each day that were stored in a lockbox kept in Hebert’s office, commonly called the “overages box,” which Thibodeaux is accused of using illegally.

In the recording, Hebert can be heard off-screen falsely telling Thibodeaux that she received a call from her doctor that something had been found in a recent mammogram. Hebert told the court that this was a lie she used to get Thibodeaux to tell the truth.

The prosecution, led by Assistant District Attorney Craig Colwart, then cross-examined Hebert about what part Thibodeaux played to get his predecessor, Pat Saunier, removed from office. Hebert testified that Thibodeaux told her that he wore a wire in order to record Saunier speaking about his illegal activity.

Saunier served as Iberia Parish Clerk of Court from 1984 to 1997 before he pleaded no contest to one count of felony theft of more than $500 in 1998.

Hebert also testified that Thibodeaux told her that she should not tell Deputy Clerk of Court David Ditch about his use of the overage box.

Hebert further testified that, before Thibodeaux was initially under investigation, when she had doubts that Thibodeaux’s access and use of the overages box might be against the law, she met with Thibodeaux’s current defense attorney John McLindon to discuss her fears. She testified that McLindon told her that he believed that Thibodeaux should resign.

Hebert was then released from her subpoena and the judge ordered the court in recess for lunch.

When court resumed later that afternoon, the state called several witnesses who had either previously or currently worked in the clerk’s office as a deputy clerk of court under Thibodeaux.

There were all asked if they knew about the overage box, if they were ever asked to deposit or withdraw money from the box and if they ever took money from the box for anything other than making change for transactions.

The deputy clerks of court included Julie Badeaux, June Saunier, Phyllis Nelson, Christy Blanchard and Donna Jolivette.

Jolivette testified that she had worked at the clerk’s office for 21 years and had a close relationship with Thibodeaux. She said that Thibodeaux had even helped her as a single mother of two children by providing a Sam’s Club Membership Card from the clerk’s office.

Jolivette was pressed by the prosecution on her being the only clerk’s office employee to receive a membership card from Thibodeaux. The prosecution also asked if she knew that purchases made with the card from the clerk’s office were exempt from state sales taxes. Jolivette stated that she never paid attention to the amount of sales taxes paid on each transaction receipt and did not know that her purchases were exempt from those taxes.

Norris Rader and his wife, Collette, who are longtime friends of Thibodeaux and his wife, testified about at trip they took on a Fourth of July weekend either in 2015 or 2016 to Austin, Texas, where they toured the capitol building. However, when the couples visited the legislature was not in session.

The last witness of the day to be called to the stand was former 16th Judicial District Judge Ann Simon. Simon testified that Thibodeaux met with her about 28 years ago when he had found out of Saunier’s illegal activity and asked for her advice on what to do.

Simon testified that she told him she was not an investigator but would pass along the information to the district attorney’s office to investigate. She also said that Thibodeaux was “afraid” about Saunier’s actions at the time.

Court is scheduled to resume on Saturday morning. The trial is expected to continue into the Memorial Day weekend.