New Orleans juror faces bribery charge from August trial

An Orleans Parish man who served on a jury in August that acquitted Casey Warren on cocaine and public intimidation charges — and deadlocked on a gun count after jurors reported that Warren’s older brother had tracked them to their cars — faces allegations that he took a bribe from Warren during the trial and then lied before a state grand jury.

Julius Ford pleaded not guilty Thursday to public bribery and perjury. Just how much Ford is accused of taking, or how it may have affected the jury’s actions, was unclear.

“They haven’t said yet,” said Ford, reached by telephone Thursday while out on $50,000 bond.

Ford, 44, labeled the allegations “a bunch of foolishness.”

“They called me in after jury duty,” he said, “and everything just started to go real fast. Next thing I know, I’m free to go, and then they came after me.”

Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, declined to comment, citing a policy against discussing open cases. Bowman said he couldn’t recall another bribery charge against an Orleans Parish juror.

The allegations filed last month mark the latest turn in a corkscrew criminal case against Warren.

His August trial stemmed from a September 2011 search of his Chevy Tahoe and his Algiers home following an undercover drug buy aided by a paid informant, according to police. The search turned up bags of powder that tested positive for cocaine, plus a .40-caliber handgun, police said.

Warren, 36, accused former New Orleans police Officer Raymond Veit of swiping closed-circuit home surveillance equipment he claimed would have proved the cops were lying, by showing that the alleged drug buy that justified the search warrant never happened, said Warren’s trial attorney, John Baer. However, Warren then was booked on a count of filing false information in a complaint by accusing Veit.

He also was accused of public intimidation for allegedly telling Veit, “This will be the end of you,” repeatedly during the search.

Along with allegations that his brother, Sean Patrick Warren, tried to intercede with the jury, the lead prosecutor in the case in the summer filed a stay-away order to keep Casey Warren from contacting her or her family. Warren allegedly violated that order by “verbally accosting” Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Truhe’s sister at a Japanese restaurant, and through contacts made by both brothers on Facebook.

Following the trial, Cannizzaro’s office sought a high bond to hold Casey Warren while it retried him on the deadlocked gun charge, prompting his attorney at the time to accuse Cannizzaro’s office of being “poor losers,” according to a WWL-TV report.

The latest allegations imply that the grapes weren’t so sour.

Ford is accused of accepting U.S. currency from Casey Warren and then lying when he appeared before the grand jury on Sept. 19, a month after the trial.

It is unknown whether Ford knew the Warrens. Judges or attorneys routinely ask prospective jurors early in the selection process whether they know the defendant.

As the jurors deliberated in August, they sent a note to Criminal District Court Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson, which she read in open court.

“Members — three members of the jury fear that the defendant’s brother monitored them getting in their cars yesterday. Please advise,” Landrum-Johnson said. She then directed the jury to finish its deliberations.

In the bill of information charging Ford, prosecutors also recharged Casey Warren with the weapons count, along with two drug crimes, jury tampering and a charge of public bribery for allegedly paying off Ford.

Sean Warren, 40, faces allegations of jury tampering and obstruction of justice from charges filed by Cannizzaro’s office in October. His attorney, Arthur “Buddy” Lemann III, declined to comment on the case.

Landrum-Johnson has been recused from the case because she may be called to testify over the alleged jury tampering.

Ford has a slim criminal record in Orleans Parish. He was arrested in 1990 for attempted theft and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in a case that the District Attorney’s Office refused to prosecute.

Both perjury and public bribery carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Veit, the NOPD officer, retired from the force in January while under investigation, according to the city. The District Attorney’s Office in 2012 referred a perjury complaint about Veit to the FBI after security camera footage obtained by defense attorneys in another drug case directly contradicted his sworn testimony. He was relegated to desk duty when that investigation began, then was suspended following his arrest in the summer in Jefferson Parish on simple assault.

Casey Warren remains jailed. Sean Warren was released last month on a recognizance bond and ordered to remain on house arrest with an electronic monitor, court records show. Criminal District Judge Franz Zibilich also barred him from having any contact with his brother.

Two weeks after Casey Warren’s trial, the Warren brothers filed a federal lawsuit against Jefferson Parish deputies alleging a civil rights violation for the use of stun guns against them during a 2012 traffic stop. That case remains pending.