Palermo attorneys and district attorney exchange fiery words

Palermo attorneys and Calcasieu DA's office exchange barbs

A fierce exchange of fiery words continues between defense lawyers for Joe Palermo and the Calcasieu district attorney, as more is revealed about behind the scenes investigations and proposed plea deals.

What defense attorneys describe as an illegal scheme to make Palermo pay millions, the D.A. says was a legitimate offer of a plea agreement.

Attorneys for the Sulphur businessman portray Palermo as the victim in court papers that accuse District Attorney John DeRosier of trying to force Palermo to pay penalties for crimes they say he didn't commit-- crimes related to prohibited gaming business activity.

Palermo attorney Karl Koch says searches of two business this week make good on a threat DeRosier made-- to pursue a racketeering investigation if Palermo did not accept a costly plea deal.

The search warrant was really nothing more than the fulfillment of a threat that was made several months ago. The district attorney, John DeRosier, came to Mr. Palermo's attorneys, and demanded that Mr. Palermo pay millions of dollars, initially five million dollars, eventually one million dollars, and threatened that if he didn't, that he would go forward with allegations such as those that were made. We refused to pay the ransom and he fulfilled the threat," said Koch.

"This has always been about how do we get Joe Palermo to pay several million dollars to the district attorneys office, even though we have no legal way to demand that payment. And it's only when we refused to make that payment and, in fact, called the state police to report what was happening, the next day that's when this all started happening," he said.

Yet DeRosier denies anything improper. He says he offered a legitimate plea deal...

"There have been plea discussions with many defendants' lawyers, in this case. And those involve a number of factors, and I'm not going to go into those factors, but they did involve the payment of significant amounts of restitution that we categorize as ill-gotten gains, that restitution being paid to the state of Louisiana," said DeRosier.

And he says,  the search of two businesses and seizure of computers and files this week are part of a legitimate investigation into allegations of white collar crime. He adds other defense motions aim to stifle their investigation.

"We effected a valid search warrant signed by a state district judge and pursuant to that seized a number of items just as we do in any other criminal case of that type," said DeRosier.

Still, Koch disputes the legitimacy of the investigation.

"John DeRosier made it very clear, if you'll pay me this money, then we can work out some great plea bargain and misdemeanors and everything will go away. And, he said, I'll sell you protection from these charges, any further charges, particularly any racketeering charges or other things. But if you don't pay it, then I'm going to go forward with something like this," said Koch.

DeRosier responded, "No amount of attempted intimidation by any defendant or his defense team will ever prevent me from doing the job the people of Calcasieu parish elected me to do."

Both sides return to court on Monday concerning computers and files seized from Palermo businesses this week. Judge Ron Ware will likely set rules to allow the state to examine items while excluding those that fall under attorney client privilege.

To read the defense memo and exhibits click here.