A civil suit filed on behalf of a woman who died days after her role in an FBI investigation against former St. Charles District Attorney Harry Morel went public alleges that Morel violated state law and operated a criminal operation to extort women charged with crimes in his parish.
The suit was Monday afternoon at the St. Charles parish courthouse. It alleges that Morel and a co-conspirator ran a criminal enterprise to dole out legal favors in exchange for sex.
Morel is currently serving a three-year sentence after he admitted to obstructing justice in federal court in connection with the FBI's investigation. But the former DA was never criminally charged with sex crimes linked to the allegation.
“Morel perverted the criminal justice system for years, by the extortion of women defendants, placing them into pre-trial diversion and then to enable him and co-conspirators in a criminal enterprise to get sexual favors for ex-DA Morel,” Glenn McGovern, who filed the suit with co-counsel, said.
In video captured by the FBI, Danelle Keim McGovern, who agreed to help the federal investigation, Morel is seen asking for kisses from the woman in exchange for help with a DWI charge in Lafourche Parish.
Keim McGovern died in 2013 after an overdose, but today attorneys representing Keim's mother filed suit on behalf of the woman they call the hero of St. Charles Parish because she stood up to the “most powerful man in the parish.”
Attorneys said the FBI investigation showed Morel attempted or sexually assaulted nearly two dozen other women over the period of a decade.
“We know there were at least 22 other women who were extorted and made to or requested sexual favors so they would not have to do community service or a loved one or boyfriend would not be prosecuted which is wrong,” Glenn McGovern said.
Now they hope the suit sends a strong message that elected officials can't exploit vulnerable citizens.
“It's a deterrent,” said attorney Glenn McGovern. “This case, lawsuits, it's a deterrent to send a message to other politicians and other DAs that they cannot do this and get away with it, and that's just it. They can't take advantage of the vulnerable women of St. Charles Parish who have misdemeanor traffic offenses or DWIs and extort sexual favors from them. It's just not right.”
The attorneys who filed the suit say they know of at least 22 women who may be victims and think more might be too scared to come forward. They hope this suit will encourage some to tell their stories.