A local FBI agent who investigated former St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel told a judge last year that he has been hamstrung by “systemic corruption” within the U.S. Department of Justice, saying he’s come under pressure at times to cover up the misconduct of federal prosecutors.
The agent, Michael Zummer, outlined those grievances and others in a 31-page letter he wrote last year to U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt before the judge sentenced Morel for attempting to derail a years-long FBI probe into the former district attorney’s sexual misconduct.
A snippet from the 31 page letter:
Because I am writing this letter as a private citizen, I will make additional observations and recommendations that go beyond the scope of the case. The mishandling of the Morel matter is not an isolated incident. I have experienced firsthand, or heard from other agents,
numerous examples of prosecutors mishandling cases especially, but not only, in corruption cases. Based upon what I have seen and heard, I believe that there is systemic corruption in the Justice Department. The FBI uncovers corruption, and the Justice Department covers it back up again. FBI managers advocate for prosecution of cases, but stifle attempts by agents to make the
public aware of this systemic corruption in the Federal criminal justice system.
This related article is from December 2016:
Senate Judiciary Committee opens inquiry into Harry Morel case, suspension of local FBI agent
The suspension of an FBI agent who investigated former St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel has drawn the attention of the Senate Judiciary Committee, an influential panel of lawmakers that has opened an inquiry into the case.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a list of questions to FBI Director James Comey, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other officials regarding the bureau’s treatment of agent Michael Zummer, who was stripped of his security clearance after sending a lengthy letter to the federal judge presiding over Morel’s criminal proceedings.
The FBI suspended Zummer without pay during the summer and escorted him out of the bureau’s New Orleans field office pending the results of an internal inquiry to determine whether he mishandled “sensitive material.”
The suspension, Grassley wrote, “looks like it could be a misuse of the security clearance process to mask retaliation for protected whistleblowing.”
The agent had been pushing for prosecutors to pursue more serious charges against Morel, according to FBI records.
Morel was sentenced this year to three years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, a charge that stemmed from his efforts to derail a multi-year FBI probe into his sexual misconduct.
Here’s what the FBI had on Harry Morel, St. Charles’ corrupt DA
Harry Morel Jr., the former St. Charles Parish district attorney, is scheduled to report to prison by Monday (Sept. 26) to begin a three-year sentence for obstruction of justice. That was the only charge that federal prosecutors lodged against him, but FBI records released this week by the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office show there was much more to the investigation.
They called it Operation Twisted Justice, and the records provide new details into allegations that the 34-year prosecutor used his position to proposition women for sexual favors in exchange for legal help with pending court cases. More than 100 people were interviewed, and 38 women told investigators that they had sex with Morel, were propositioned for sex by him or were inappropriately touched or groped by him, according to the records.
The FBI records were provided to the Sheriff’s Office for consideration of possible state law violations. They include audio and video recordings of Morel talking with Danelle Keim, the key government witness he is accused of harassing and instructing to destroy photographs of their meetings. Keim, who had let the FBI hide surveillance equipment in her apartment, died of a drug overdose in 2013, a day after the federal investigation was made public.
A meeting between former St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel, Jr. and FBI informant Danelle Keim turns physical as they discuss her legal case and court-ordered community service at Keim’s St. Rose apartment.
A link to Senator Grassley’s letter:
Dear Inspector General Horowitz and Ms. Ashton:
I write concerning allegations of a conflict of interest that potentially affected a plea agreement in a criminal case that was negotiated by the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Eastern District of Louisiana. FBI Special Agent (SA) Michael Zummer has reported to
this Committee that a relationship between then-First Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA)
Fred Harper and defense attorney Ralph Capitelli may have resulted in a lenient plea agreement for former St. Charles district attorney Harry Morel.
Mr. Morel has admitted to soliciting sex from female defendants and female family members of defendants during his time as the St. Charles district attorney. However, Mr. Morel was not charged with any sexual offenses. Rather, Mr. Morel received a three-year sentence in
2016 after pleading guilty to a single count of obstructing justice. AUSA Harper and Mr. Capitelli, who represented Mr. Morel, owned a condominium together until March 2013 when AUSA Harper transferred his ownership to his girlfriend.
The USAO initially declined to prosecute Mr. Morel in 2013. AUSA Harper was reportedly directly involved in that decision. SA Zummer filed a complaint with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in May 2013 against AUSA Harper for failing to recuse himself from
matters involving Mr. Capitelli. SA Zummer reported to this Committee that he experienced retaliation as a result of his OIG complaint, including from AUSAs who declined to prosecute SA Zummer’s cases. Additionally, in March 2014, the USAO reportedly refused to accept the
FBI’s referral of SA Zummer to serve as a Special Assistant United States Attorney to prosecute
h/t Daniel Higdon