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Sunday, February 25, 2024
Feb. 25, 2024

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13 years for ex-prosecutor accused of sex for leniency


NEW ORLEANS — A former Louisiana prosecutor was sentenced Wednesday to three years for obstructing justice, though prosecutors accused him of soliciting sex from women in exchange for favorable treatment.

Seventy-three-year-old Harry Morel was sentenced in federal district court. The judge also gave him a $20,000 fine.

Judge Kurt Engelhardt announced the sentence prior to asking whether anyone wanted to speak on Morel’s behalf, saying no statements would have made a difference in the sentence.

Engelhardt also said Morel would be on supervised released for a year once he is released from prison. The judge said he would leave it up to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to determine where Morel will serve the time.

Morel 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 sexual 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 might lead jurors to doubt them.

And a key witness was dead.

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 accused of drunken driving called 911 and accused him of sexually assaulting her at her home.

Agents wired Danelle Keim for video. Authorities say one video shows him 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 admitted to telling Keim to destroy photographic evidence of their meetings.

Keim’s sister, Tessie Keim, spoke in the hall outside the courtroom on Wednesday and said she had conflicting feelings about the three-year sentence.

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

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