Criminal Justice

Special judge will decide courthouse vault cocaine case against ex-employee, top court rules

Louisiana’s top court has put an end to a bitter dispute over the judge assigned to hear a courthouse vault cocaine-smuggling case against a former court clerk’s office employee who is also the son of another local jurist.

The Louisiana Supreme Court has recused not only the civil judge assigned to hear the case, as the prosecution sought, but the entire 19th Judicial District bench. A retired presiding judge from another district has been appointed as as a special judge in the case against William Bates Colvin, reports The Advocate.

A former East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court employee, Colvin is the son of state District Judge Kay Bates. He is accused of stealing firearms and some 22 kilograms of cocaine from the courthouse evidence vault, and allegedly distributing at least some of the cocaine. Five other defendants including a fellow former court clerk’s office employee face related criminal charges.

All but two of the judges in the 19th Judicial District recused themselves prior to the supreme court’s ruling, leaving only a civil judge and a criminal judge available for assignment. The case was assigned by the clerk’s office to the civil judge, a colleague of Bates, resulting in the prosecution’s objection. The government also said jailhouse recordings showed that Colvin had said he expected preferential treatment because he had connections at the courthouse, the newspaper reports.

However, attorney Frank Holthaus, who represents Colvin, argued that prosecutors were skirting proper procedure and essentially judge-shopping.

“They made a decision and we’ll work with it,” he said of the supreme court ruling.

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