LAFAYETTE, La. — A key witness has pleaded guilty and avoided prison in the racketeering case against former Knight Oil Tools executive Mark Knight.

Russell Manuel’s plea bargain includes a suspended sentence and five years of probation on each of four criminal charges, The Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2cwkz2f ).

Prosecutors dropped two counts under the plea agreement made Thursday in state district court.

Knight is accused of paying Manuel, a state trooper and a sheriff’s deputy to plant illegal drugs in his brother’s vehicle, and to have the brother, Bryan Knight, arrested during a dispute over company ownership.

Manuel, 47, of Lafayette, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, intimidating a witness, and two drug counts. Prosecutors dropped an extortion charge and a drug charge.

In court papers, Manuel said he conspired with the lawmen and Mark Knight to package illegal narcotics and attach them beneath Bryan Knight’s vehicle.

On June 4, 2014, Manuel made an anonymous call to police, saying Bryan Knight had illegal drugs under his car, court papers reveal. A Lafayette police officer stopped the car, found the drugs and arrested Bryan Knight.

The case against Bryan Knight eventually was dropped, with investigators turning to Knight Oil Tools.

Defense attorney Pat Magee said Manuel is looking forward to testifying against his co-defendants.

“Russ is extremely embarrassed about his behavior,” Magee said Thursday. “He offers apologies to Bryan Knight and the citizens of Lafayette.”


Information from: The Advertiser, http://www.theadvertiser.com