• Navy vet: Louisiana Deputies Beat Me Senseless

    A Louisiana sheriff’s election campaign brings attention to district attorney being accused of covering-up 2006 police brutality case to protect law firm and insurance company that represents sheriff and deputies involved.

    “I would drop the charges and accept the liability,” said Jennifer “Hap” Werther, Libertarian candidate for St. Tammany Parish sheriff in the Oct. 24 election. “These actions have affected Mr. Gates’ life for almost a decade without resolve.”

    A 2007 civil rights complaint filed by Shane M. Gates, an investigations-law firm manager, alleges that St. Tammany Sheriff Rodney “Jack” Strain, who is running for reelection, in collusion with former District Attorney Walter P. Reed did repeatedly fabricate and manufacture facts, affidavits, charges, and reports in order to shield the deputies who beat-up Gates from civil rights claims and otherwise prevent him redress for violations of his constitutional rights.

    Court records show that both the 2007 civil rights complaint, and an additional 2012 civil rights complaint, is stalled in federal court due to renewed misdemeanor charges filed by Reed in 2008. Reed resigned from office last year amidst criminal indictment by a federal grand jury.

    “When I came home from the Navy, the Shane Gates case was on the news showing this man whose face was all beat up; the sheriff’s deputy saying that he fell on him; and then Mr. Gates was brought to Mississippi for plastic surgery,” said Werther. “This after the sheriff’s office and state troopers went after a drunk driver and pulled over Mr. Gates who just came from a car dealership.”

    She said photos, taken four days after the incident, shows extensive injury with evidence of battery, not someone falling on Gates. “If a victim came to any law enforcement officer with those same cuts and bruises requiring stitches and surgeries, not one would believe that the perpetrator fell on the victim to cause such extensive damage.”

    Gates, who is a Loyola University graduate, said the brutal beating by St. Tammany sheriff’s deputies was unwarranted and caused two eye injuries that required multiple surgeries and 27 stitches in total. “My treating physicians’ prognosis is four corrective surgeries and diagnosis permanent nerve damage.”

    In a July statement issued by St. Tammany Parish DA Warren Montgomery, who was elected to office by St. Tammany Parish and Washington Parish voters in December, said his office has re-examined the 2006 incident, and found sufficient evidence to prosecute “outstanding” misdemeanor DWI and resisting arrest charges, even though Gates was acquitted by a jury on felony charges related to the same incident.

    In addition, Montgomery said because Gates failed to appear in court almost two years ago to answer for these charges, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest. “However, my office has notified Mr. Gates through his legal representative that we will not seek pre-trial detention if he turns himself in.”

    New Orleans civil rights attorney Daniel G. Abel, who has represented Gates said, “Gates was never served at all after the felony trial in July 2012 so the warrant is baseless.”

    Although in 2010 Judge William J. “Will” Crain ruled that the misdemeanor should move forward, he said the case was never set for trial within the one year statute of limitation and is therefore untimely.

    The evidence that Montgomery is relying on has been rejected and proven false by a jury in the felony trial, he said. “This makes the misdemeanor trial double jeopardy and res judicata as to these facts since there is no new evidence.” Res judicata, also known as claim preclusion, prevents continued litigation of a case in which there has been a final judgment on the same issues between the same parties.

    “Not only is the DA’s office prohibited from prosecuting a case already decided, former DA Reed has committed Hobbs Act crimes for having used his political office for personal gain,” said Abel.

    Covington law firm, McCranie Sistrunk, which is the private civil law firm of Reed, represents the insurance companies that insure the sheriff’s office and the officers who beat-up Gates, he said. “It is alleged Gates was prosecuted to cover for Walter Reed’s civil clients as is the pattern reported in articles published by The Advocate.”

    Although Montgomery was provided an eight page outline together with documented evidence totaling 70 pages, that show an eight year cover-up concocted by Reed, Strain, sheriff’s deputies, sheriff’s attorney, the Clerk of the Court, the prosecuting attorney and others, he continues the unlawful prosecution of Gates, he said. “Documentation included proof of jury tampering, fabrication of evidence, injury of public records, admissions of alteration and destruction of dispatch tapes, and fraudulent blood alcohol results.”

    Republican candidate for Sheriff, Randy Smith, who was the supervising officer the night Gates was beat-up, contradicted himself at two separate forums, said Werther.

    “At one forum Smith said he was unaware of any corruption while he was 24 years at the St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s office,” she said. “At another forum Smith said that he witnessed a lot of corruption and nepotism during his tenure.”

    To date, there are no definitive, public answers to questions about Smith’ involvement in the Gates’ case, she said. “So, which one is it? I saw nothing? I chose to see nothing? I did not report what I saw? I did not make waves? Cover up for my brothers and sisters?”

    Smith declined to comment for this story.

    “A sheriff has to look at any case right away where there is obvious evidence against a deputy and act, not just writing them up or put on administrative leave of absence, but also to the point of firing and arresting for batteries, murders, or other crime,” said Werther.

    Terry M. King, member of Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, said Montgomery should be prosecuting the assistant DA in the Gates case, Nicholas F. Noriea for admitting he altered the dispatch records. Noriea also has a $240,000 civil court judgment against him for investor fraud, he said.

    “Warren ran on qualifications, not connections, he’s not living up to what he told the people,” he said. “This is the perfect scenario to get rid of criminals especially if you are DA.” King was involved in exposing a former St. Tammany Parish coroner, who is currently in prison, for taking unwarranted and excessive salary payments from tax payer funds.

    “It’s a tragedy what happened to Shane Gates,” said King. “It’s a broken justice system in a parish more concerned with taking care of themselves than actually the rule of law.” There have been repeated criminal offenses committed against Gates in this eight year ordeal, he said. “If you read the transcripts you will recognize, the entire event was falsified – every step of it.”

    The former environmental auditor said he would like to see justice in the Gate’s case and also reform in the criminal justice system of the 22nd Judicial Circuit. “What they try to do – their ‘MO’ – is to take you to court, push the date back every time, force you to spend a couple of thousand dollars, keep doing this, so they bankrupt everyone.”

    In response to inquiries by Daily Surge, DA Montgomery submitted this statement:

    “Because this matter is in litigation, it’s not appropriate for me to address the underlying facts of the case through the media. The appropriate way to resolve this matter is through a court of law with witnesses testifying under oath. As I’ve said previously, I urge Mr. Gates to present himself to the court so that the judicial process can resolve these outstanding misdemeanor charges and end this dispute.”

    Raquel Okyay

    Raquel Okyay is a political columnist and commentator. She is frequently published at Human Events, Bearing Arms and Rockland County Times.

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