Galvan sentenced to 2 years in corruption case
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison — the upper limit in federal recommendations — for conspiring to steal money from the coroner’s office.
He also was ordered to repay $193,388 to the parish, with a hearing March 12 to decide whether to add more to that bill.
“Total losses are not yet ascertainable,” U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan said.
Galvan, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit theft, had to pay the $193,388 and a $5,000 fine immediately.
“I apologize to the people of St. Tammany Parish,” he told Morgan before she handed down his sentence. “I betrayed their trust. I know I cannot be forgiven for that. I have ruined my career and my reputation. I cannot get that back. ... I will do whatever I have to do to make the parish whole.”
He is to report to prison April 11.
Galvan, coroner since 2000, resigned in October after being charged in a bill of information — often an indication that a defendant plans a guilty plea — and pleaded guilty a week later. The bill of information said he received $111,000 in pay to which he wasn’t entitled and used an office debit card to buy more than $15,000 in meals and other personal items.
Morgan said Galvan’s case brought her more mail than any other she has handled. Many people, including former patients who say he saved their lives, asked for leniency — but there was also a great deal of outrage, she said.
She said she was convinced that he is remorseful and “will make every effort to be a good citizen” once he is out of prison. But she said she also felt she had to impose a sentence that reflects the seriousness of his crime and will deter others.
“It’s a longer sentence than we anticipated,” said Terry King, who began investigating Galvan after the coroner fired his wife, Laura King, as head of the forensics lab in 2009. He said he expects the restitution to “increase dramatically.”
Laura King filed a state lawsuit in 2010, challenging her dismissal. After news reports in January 2013 described her allegations of misspending, the state legislative auditor began looking at the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office, going to court to get documents when Galvan refused to comply with a subpoena for them.
The couple, from Diamondhead, Miss., filed a federal lawsuit in June challenging a state law making state ethics complaints private. The Kings were charged with violating the law by talking to reporters about an ethics complaint they filed against Galvan.
Those charges were dropped. However, the lawsuit says the Kings’ right to free speech is still being restrained because further charges might be brought against them, “including the redaction of a reference to the ethics complaint that was made in the wrongful termination suit.”
U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman has scheduled a trial without jury on July 14.