February 26, 2007
Reported by Associated Press
A state judge threw out all remaining criminal charges against Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom today just as jury selection was to have begun in a case that has dragged on for more than four years.
The move by Judge Don Johnson could signal the end of a case that started with a 21-count indictment in August 2002. Prosecutors objected to Johnson's dismissal but didn't say whether they would appeal his decision.
Odom declared victory, and his lawyers said they believed the case was dead. The seven-term agriculture commissioner broke into tears when Johnson tossed out the remaining charges and hugged his wife and other family members while supporters broke into applause in the courtroom.
Odom - a 71-year-old powerhouse in the state Democratic Party - faced six criminal charges when the day began, including two money laundering counts, one theft count and three bribery charges.
Johnson threw out the money laundering counts Monday morning. Prosecutors said they expected a trial delay so they could appeal his ruling. Johnson refused a delay. Then, when prosecutors said they would not proceed this afternoon, Johnson threw out the four remaining counts.
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