Mark Knight’s wife, daughter added to federal civil suit

Image courtesy The Acadiana Advocate
Mark Knight arrives at the Lafayette Parish Courthouse in August 2018 to face criminal charges in connection with the 2014 scheme to set his younger brother up on a drug charge. Mark pleaded no contest in that case.

The gist: A federal magistrate judge has allowed Mark Knight’s wife, Trish, and daughter, Heather, to be added as defendants to an ongoing federal civil suit filed four years ago by Mark’s brother.

Get caught up, quickly. In June 2015, Bryan Knight sued his older brother and three co-conspirators, accusing them of violating his civil rights by concocting a scheme to plant illegal drugs on him and have him arrested — all in an effort for Mark to remain the top executive of Knight Oil Tools and get his hands on Bryan’s ownership interest.

The federal suit claims Mark’s wife and daughter participated in the conspiracy, along with former Knight Oil Tools employee Russell Manuel and ex-cops Jason Kinch and Corey Jackson. Trish and Heather were not charged in the scheme; Manuel, Kinch and Jackson pleaded guilty, and Mark Knight pleaded no contest.

The suit claims:

– Heather Knight Billeaud expressed her own desire to see, and thus requested, that Manuel and his friends in law enforcement have Bryan arrested, “beat up,” or “worse.”

– After the scheme was carried out, Heather assisted in and/or facilitated in the payment of bribes … for the success of the operation in seeing her uncle wrongfully arrested.

– In the weeks prior to Bryan Knight’s June 4, 2014, arrest, Trish and Heather summoned Manuel to a meeting at a picnic table at Mark and Trish’s home to ask about the progress of the scheme and to vent their frustration that Bryan had not yet been arrested.

– Mark’s wife and daughter chastised Manuel for his failure to succeed up to that point, demanding that the arrest be executed prior to the wedding of Zach Knight, the youngest of Mark and Trish Knight’s children, scheduled for late June 2014.

The suit goes on to claim that Heather again requested Manuel and his friends in law enforcement “arrest, beat up, or do worse to the Plaintiff.” The suit further alleges both women were aware that drugs had been planted on Bryan’s vehicle at that time.

As The Current previously reported, Manuel implicated Trish and Heather soon after his arrest; he also was deposed in the federal civil case. 

Heather Knight took to Facebook to defend her father in December 2015; her uncle now claims in a federal civil lawsuit that she participated in the plot to set him up.

Attorney Kirk Piccione, who represents Heather Knight, declined to comment for this story. Piccione told me last month that he counseled Heather ahead of her grand jury testimony in her father’s criminal case. “She did not get a target letter,” he said. “She testified simply as a witness.”

Gordon Schoeffler, one of the attorneys representing Bryan Knight, also declined to comment.

A strange coincidence. U.S. Magistrate Judge Carol B. Whitehurst of the Western District of Louisiana signed the order allowing Trish and Heather to be added as defendants on June 24, the same day New York Magazine published an engrossing account of the sordid family saga that bankrupted the company. Read that story and The Current’s Q and A with the author here.

About the Author

A founding editor of both The Independent and ABiz and senior editor at The Times of Acadiana in the 1990s, Leslie Turk has worked in the newspaper business in Lafayette for almost three decades. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times and The Acadiana Advocate. Email her at leslie@thecurrentla.com.

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