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Police: Employee turned $200,000 from evidence vault cocaine

Capital City Press LLC, The Advocate New Orleans Edition,
BYLINE: Jim Mustian,

East Baton Rouge Parish, LA

The fired East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office employee charged with stealing 22 kilograms of cocaine from an evidence vault turned a hefty profit of more than $200,000 in distributing the purloined drugs, detectives allege in newly filed court documents.

Most of the money William Bates Colvin made was “earned during a four-month period and remains unaccounted for,” according to a search warrant affidavit, though detectives have sought to locate any remaining proceeds.

Colvin, the son of state District Judge Kay Bates, was indicted with five co-defendants last month on a raft of charges stemming from the stolen cocaine. The case has shaken the clerk’s office and touched off a testy dispute over which local judge, if any, should preside over the proceedings.

The search warrant affidavit, which surfaced in court filings this week, offered new details about the extent of Colvin’s cooperation with authorities since his December arrest.

“From the get-go when I began to represent him, I said we were just going to come clean on everything, which we did,” said Frank Holthaus, Colvin’s defense attorney. “This guy has already confessed ad nauseam.”

In interviews with detectives, Colvin said he spent some $20,000 on a vehicle and $30,000 on “an assortment of jewelry,” the affidavit shows.

Holthaus, however, said that Colvin is “not an accurate historian on the amounts of money and where it went because of his own drug-induced state of mind” at the time he was stealing the cocaine.

In a preview of the mitigating evidence he intends to offer at sentencing, Holthaus said Colvin had been suffering through substance-abuse issues, taking what he referred to as “Xanax whoppers.”

“He’s not the brightest crayon in the box and that has caused us a lot of trouble,” Holthaus said, “but being stupid and being guilty ain’t the same thing.”

Despite his cooperation, detectives believed Colvin to be concealing the remainder of the cocaine proceeds, and began monitoring his jailhouse telephone conversations, according to the search warrant affidavit filed in court.

During one call, in February, Colvin said he had accounts at Regions Bank and JPMorgan Chase, prompting investigators to issue subpoenas to those financial institutions.

Colvin explained during the call that “only a portion of the funds contained in these accounts are legitimate,” the affidavit says, “and power of attorney could be given to a third party to access these funds.”

Colvin, 31, of Baton Rouge, is charged with stealing more than 22 kilograms of cocaine, or roughly 48 pounds, from the Clerk of Court’s Office evidence vault — inside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse — between September and the end of November. He is also accused of smuggling several firearms from the evidence room — weapons that had been seized from accused drug dealers and murderers.

Colvin’s proceedings have been delayed over a dispute over which judge will preside over his case.

Most local judges recused themselves from the case, and prosecutors have cried foul at the assignment of the case to state District Judge Janice Clark, a colleague of Colvin’s mother on the civil bench. Seeking to have an ad hoc judge appointed, prosecutors alleged Colvin told his fiancée in recorded jailhouse calls that he expects to get a deal in his case because of his connections in the courthouse.

For his part, Holthaus said he opposes the Louisiana Supreme Court appointing an outside judge to handle the case. “I’m not giving up,” he said. “I think our judges are excellent, and if the police can stay on the case and the DA can stay on the case then the judges can stay on the case.”

Several other defendants are awaiting trial in the case. Another former Clerk of Court’s Office employee, Debra Vicknair Bell, 55, of Maurepas, has been charged along with Colvin with malfeasance in office and possessing more than 400 grams of cocaine.

Bell has allegedly told authorities she and Colvin were romantically involved and that she received some of the money Colvin earned from the cocaine distribution. Colvin also faces several counts of obstruction of justice

Bell’s son, 29-year-old Colt Bell, of Baker, and Terrance Sloan Ramirez, 30, of Baton Rouge, are accused of extorting Colvin in an effort to force him to commit more thefts from the evidence vault. A police affidavit states Debra Bell admitted she had Colt Bell distribute some of the stolen cocaine.

Also charged with possession of stolen cocaine are Baton Rouge residents Deroy Joseph, 40, and Larry Collins, 26.

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