NEW ORLEANS -- When former St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel reports to prison next week to begin serving his three-year sentence, some people believe he’s getting a sweetheart deal given accusations against him: using the power of his office to get sex from more than 20 women over more than two decades.
The sex cases never materialized, but on Monday authorities released some physical encounters caught on clandestine video by the FBI. Those videos show Morel showing up at the apartment of DWI defendant Danielle Keim in July 2012.
Keim had been recruited by the FBI after she called 911 to report a sexual assault against Morel in 2010. After years of trying to build a criminal case against Morel for soliciting sex-for-leniency, Keim finally agreed to wear a wire and stage an encounter with Morel.
During the meeting, the video shows Morel arriving with two bottles of wine – one red, one white – which he gives to Keim. The two then sit on Keim’s couch where the conversation alternates between talking about Keim’s case and what favors Keim might deliver if Morel follows through on a promise to help her get credit for community service hours.
At several points in the nearly one-hour liaison, Morel gets physical. At one point, he demands a kiss.
Morel: “Come kiss me.”
Keim: “I'm only going to give you a peck.”
Morel: “I'll peck that. That's it? Forever?”
Later in the video, Keim apparently tries to get Morel to be explicit about what he wants from Keim in exchange for his help.
Keim: “What do you want from me?”
Morel: “I don't know. I want to spend some time with you.”
Keim: “You say that, but you never...I know you're busy, but you never…
Morel: “Well, I think about making love to you, but then it makes me nervous too.”
Less than eight months after the videotaped encounter, Keim died of a drug overdose and no sex charges were ever brought against Morel.
What did stick against Morel was an obstruction of justice charge, based on a request by Morel to destroy a memory card with photos of an inappropriate encounter with Keim.
That meeting also was caught on hidden FBI video. In the video, Morel is heard saying, “It doesn't really say anything, does anything, but on the other hand, get rid of it and there's nothing there.”
Given the FBI's portrayal of Morel as a “sexual predator,” Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, is among those who believe Morel got off easy.
“Harry Morel puts Darren Sharper to shame,” Goyeneche said, referring to the former NFL player who is serving 18 years in prison after admitting to drugging and raping 16 women.
“He used his office for his own sexual gratification in preying on women, helpless women who were vulnerable,” Goyeneche said.
Despite the portrayal of his client by federal authorities, Morel's attorney, Ralph Capitelli, said the newly released video shows no crimes beyond Morel’s guilty plea to a single count of obstruction of justice.
“Where’s the sex charge? They still don’t have one,” Capitelli said. “The FBI monitored those (videotaped) meetings and there was never an arrest and no sex charges were lodged.”
But at the press conference in April announcing the plea deal with Morel, federal authorities said the case went far deeper than what they could bring to court in the form of formal charges.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said that while Morel was elected to be the chief prosecutor in St. Charles Parish, “in the darkness of his heart, he was something else entirely: a man who perverted his position of power to take sexual advantage of desperate women who needed help. And he did this over and over again.”
“This is a case about the worst form of public corruption,” local FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeff Sallet said at the April press briefing.
Sallet went on to give the full scope of what he described as Morel’s perverse abuse of power.
“This joint investigation uncovered more than 20 victims spanning 20 years. Harry Morel is nothing short of a sexual predator,” he said.
When Morel was sentenced on August 17, he offered only limited words of remorse.
“I want to apologize for my actions in this unfortunate matter. I did what I did and I am very sorry,” he said.
Morel is scheduled to self-report to prison on Monday.
(© 2016 WWL)