Past DA investigator sentenced

Published 4:32 am Friday, April 6, 2018

U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced Wednesday that Michael J. Cotton, 68, of Bogalusa, was sentenced to 37 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle, after previously pleading guilty to the one-count Bill of Information pending against him, charging Cotton with soliciting sexual favors from a woman in exchange for obtaining a bond reduction for her boyfriend.

According to court documents, Cotton worked as an Investigator with the Office of the District Attorney for the 22nd Judicial District, which included Washington and St. Tammany parishes. 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 also possessed and displayed a law enforcement badge and credentials, represented the DA’s Office in interactions with criminal defendants and witnesses in ongoing law enforcement investigations, and had access to sensitive case-related information. Furthermore, Cotton regularly corresponded with, had access to, and provided case-related recommendations to Assistant District Attorneys.

Between Dec. 28, 2013, and July 10, 2015, Cotton offered to intervene in legal proceedings and obtain favorable legal outcomes, such as significant reductions in bond, for three females charged with crimes within the 22nd Judicial District and their friends, family, and significant others who were charged with crimes in exchange for sexual favors. If females expressed reluctance, Cotton would either imply or state explicitly that he had the ability to influence the criminal justice system to exact harsher penalties against the females or their friends, families, or significant others, court documents stated.

An example listed in one court document showed that, in July of 2015, Cotton demanded sexual favors from a 23-year-old female identified as “Victim 1” in exchange for seeking a bond reduction for her boyfriend, who was a defendant in the Washington Parish jail, from $25,000 to a $30 signature bond. Between December of 2013 and March 24, Cotton requested sexual favors from a 28-year-old female identified as “Victim 2” in exchange for arranging for her to retain custody of her minor children and eliminating a drug testing condition she had as the result of prior legal issues.

Cotton then told Victim 2 that he had strong relationships with, and possessed 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 of 2014, Cotton used his position as Investigator to seek and obtain a significant bond reduction for an incarcerated 23-year-old female identified as “Victim 3” with whom he had a relationship that involved sexual activity.

When, in February 2014, Victim 3 sought to end her sexual relationship with him, Cotton told her that he would use his position as Investigator to influence law enforcement authorities to imprison Victim 3 if she did not resume the sexual relationship.

Evans praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in investigating this matter. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg.