NEW ORLEANS -- The words “not guilty” came from St. Tammany Coroner Peter Galvan's mouth minutes after he was called up to the judge's bench for arraignment on corruption charges Wednesday afternoon.
The charge, filed in a bill of information Friday, is conspiracy to commit theft of property and money from a municipal institution receiving federal funds.
The plea applies to allegations that Galvan received improper payouts for sick and vacation time, used a coroner's office employee to fulfill a medical care contract between his private practice and the Slidell jail, and used thousands in public dollars to buy personal items.
"I'm very glad to see he was brought into court and the process is continuing on,” said Terry King, who is suing Galvan. “It’s been a very long hard fight for us, but we are happy that it's moving forward"
After the plea, the judge set a $100,000 bond with travel restrictions.
But Eyewitness News legal analyst Attorney Jason Williams said that's all part of the process toward a 'guilty' plea.
"I think they already have done that in offices and conferences and this is a step to really set up his travel restrictions, the conditions of his bond and they already probably picked a date that he will come back in and do a re-arraignement and that arraignment will be a guilty plea," Williams said.
For now, a trial date is set for December, and the consequences Galvan faces if convicted include five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years supervised release and paying back two-times the gross loss of the victims, which are the taxpayers, as laid out in the bill of information.
Williams said that payback could be a bargaining chip for Galvan.
"If he has the ability to pay this amount back quickly, that could make a difference in the length of his jail sentence as well."