Appeals Court Denies New Trial for Ex-La. Senate President Convicted of Stealing from Insurer

December 17, 2004

A federal appeals court rejected a request for a new trial from ex-Louisiana Senate President Michael O’Keefe, convicted in 1996 of stealing millions of dollars from a failed medical malpractice insurance company.

O’Keefe is serving a 19 1/2-year federal prison sentence. He argued he would have had a better chance at acquittal if prosecutors had provided records dealing with a key witness.

The issue involves the testimony of Johnny Moore, a former state insurance department lawyer. Moore pleaded guilty to stealing $500,000 from now-defunct Physicians National Risk Retention Group, which O’Keefe was hired to nurse back to health in 1991.

The defense contended Moore lied to the jury about being bribed by O’Keefe. Attorneys claim Moore’s testimony was different from statements he gave the FBI. But the court said in its opinion that those issues had already been raised during the trial, when Moore underwent extensive cross-examination by O’Keefe’s lawyers.

“The jury was well aware that Moore had recorded conversations, was otherwise cooperating with the government and was testifying against the defendant in hopes of a reduced sentence,” the court wrote.

The attorneys also argued that a memo regarding Moore’s interview with a federal agent was missing.

“They do not prove this (memo) ever existed, that it contained exculpatory information, that it was suppressed, or that it was material,” the court said in its ruling.

U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon denied O’Keefe’s motion for a new trial and a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit—Judges Thomas Reavely, Fortunato Benavides and Jacques Wiener—upheld her decision.

O’Keefe’s attorneys could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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