(WVUE) - A former investigator with the 22 Judicial District Attorney's Office, which serves St. Tammany and Washington parishes, pleaded guilty Wednesday to soliciting sexual favors in exchange for favorable treatment of those in the criminal justice system.
Michael Cotton, 68, of Bogalusa, pleaded guilty the one-count bill of information.
According to court documents, Cotton was responsible for investigating matters involving the issuance of bad checks, including initiating cases, reviewing records, interacting with victims, collecting fees and restitution from offenders, and obtaining warrants from municipal judges. Cotton had and displayed a law enforcement badge and credentials, represented the District Attorney's Office in interactions with criminal defendants and witnesses in ongoing investigations, and had access to sensitive, case-related information. Cotton also regularly corresponded with, had access to and provided case-related recommendations to assistant district attorneys.
Between December 28, 2013, and July 10, 2015, Cotton offered to intervene in legal proceedings and obtain favorable outcomes - such as significant reductions in bond - for three women charged with crimes, and their friends, famil, and significant others who were charged with crimes, in exchange for sexual favors. If the women declined, court documents say Cotton would either imply or state explicitly that he had the ability to influence the criminal justice system to exact harsher penalties against them or their friends and families.
In July 2015, Cotton demanded sexual favors from a 23-year-old woman, identified as "Victim 1," in exchange for seeking a bond reduction from $25,000 to a $30 signature bond for her boyfriend, a defendant in the Washington Parish jail.
Between December 2013 and March 2014, Cotton requested sexual favors from a 28-year-old woman, identified as "Victim 2," in exchange for arranging for her to keep custody of her minor children and eliminating a drug-testing condition she had as the result of prior legal issues. Cotton told her that he had strong relationships with, and had the the power to influence representatives of the Washington Parish Department of Children and Family Services, judges of the 22nd Judicial District and the then-District Attorney Walter Reed.
In January 2014, Cotton used his position as investigator to seek and obtain a significant bond reduction for an jailed 23-year-old woman identified as "Victim 3," with whom he had a relationship that involved sexual activity. When Victim 3 sought to end her sexual relationship with him in February, Cotton told her that he would use his position to have her jailed again if she didn't resume the sexual relationship.
Cotton faces a maximum sentence of 10 years, followed by up to a lifetime of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for March 14, 2018.
"Mike Cotton was a profoundly corrupt member of the law enforcement community who victimized some of the most vulnerable women in Washington Parish," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Rommal. "His guilty plea is an important first step toward holding him accountable for his abuses of power."