Keith Phillips, 61, of Kent, Texas, a former special agent with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in Dallas pleaded guilty in the Western District of Louisiana on October 3, 2011, to a two-count Indictment filed on July 27, 2011, charging him with obstruction of justice and perjury.
According to the Indictment, from September 1996 to Dec. 14, 1999, Phillips and an FBI special agent participated in a criminal investigation that led to the indictment of Hubert Vidrine Jr. and others. Not exactly an earth shattering assertion - I mean, you know, if you got two agents investigating you, there's a good chance that you're gonna get indicted. Not that you're guilty. Still, the odds of these things being what they are, if the dogs are sniffing around, there's probably a scent.
Funny thing, though, the criminal charges against Vidrine were dismissed.
The not so funny thing is that after the dismissal, Vidrine turns around and civilly sues the United States for malicious prosecution.
What's that all about, you ask. Well, stay with me.
In his guilty plea, Phillips admitted to having falsely testified during his deposition in Vidrine's civil suit. Here's where it gets a bit odd.
During Vidrine's civil suit, Phillips was apparently deposed and asked if he had an affair with the FBI special agent with whom he was working the criminal investigation against Vidrine. Apparently, Phillips said "no," which was a lie.
According to a September 30, 2011, ruling in Vidrine's civil case, the Court found that the "inappropriate affair" was highly relevant and material to those proceedings. Moreover, Phillips purportedly contacted the FBI special agent on at least three occasions to ensure that she knew that he had testified that their relationship was purely professional, when in fact, it was not.
In his plea, Phillips admitted that he had testified knowingly and dishonestly about the affair with the specific intent to undermine the due administration of justice. He admitted that he had tried to influence, obstruct and impede the civil suit by testifying falsely that he did not have an extramarital affair with the FBI special agent.
Phillips faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the obstruction of justice count, and five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the perjury count. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.
Hold on for a second - I'm not quite done. The commentary above is largely gleaned from the Department of Justice's official press release about Phillips' guilty plea.
Not that DOJ tried to sanitize this case but, it's just that, well, lemme try to put this gently - the official DOJ version isn't exactly the whole, full blown story.
If you'd like the full flavor of this torrid story, read "Local Awarded $1.67 M in Lawsuit Damages" (by Tina Marie Macias, The Daily Advertiser, October 3, 2011). Reporter Macias informs us that on October 3, 2011, Vedrine was awarded $1.67 million in damages on his malicious lawsuit claim against the federal government, which arose out of his 1999 indictment for the allegedly wrongful storage of hazardous waste without a permit.
However, there's so much more to this intriguing story than what the goverment told us in its press release. By way of a teaser, consider these jaw-dropping facts in Macias' article:
Phillips was accused of being addicted to cocaine to the point of hallucinations, targeting Vidrine because of his outspokenness and choosing an investigation in Louisiana to be close to a woman with whom he was having a sexual affair.
A federal judge in Lafayette, Rebecca Doherty, agreed that Vidrine was prosecuted maliciously and the U.S. did not have probable cause to prosecute him. She handed down a 142-page ruling late Friday that pointed to Phillips behavior as proof that Vidrine's malicious prosecution claims were valid.