COVINGTON, La. — Attorney gave conflicting images of former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain as day three of his sex crimes trial kicked off with opening statements.
Assistant District Attorney J. Collin Sims called Strain “a rapist and a child molester,” while defense attorney Billy Gibbens said his client is the scapegoat for accusers who would sell out one of their friends and relatives to avoid jail time.
Sims spoke first, laying out the state’s case that the former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff used positions of power throughout his life to prey on children. Strain faces four counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated incest, indecent behavior with a juvenile and sexual battery.
“You want to keep secrets? Make people need you,” Sims said.
Sims plans to have more than 30 witnesses testify to make his case, including a fifth alleged victim not included in the charges against Strain. Sims said he came forward on his own and will testify that Strain raped him when he was a young boy.
“It’s going to be exhausting,” Sims warned the jury, but said that by the time he’s done they’ll know that ‘(Strain) is a rapist and a child molester. Period.”
Gibbens responded, claiming that the state’s case won’t hold up. He broke down the four alleged victims listed in the charges into two categories: Manipulators and the manipulated.
Gibbens challenged the alleged victims’ credibility and asked the jury to question their motivation. He claimed two of the men Strain is charged with molesting stand to avoid jail time and even make money by accusing his client. The two other alleged victims were blackmailed by the FBI into accusing Strain, according to Gibbens.
Gibbens claims that the former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff is “a big trophy” for the FBI and that the state took Strain to trial without the evidence necessary to convict. He even called the prosecution’s long list of witnesses proof that their case doesn’t have merit.
“The stories don’t stand up on their own,” Gibbens said. “The government cannot prove their allegations against Mr. Strain.”
The first witness
The state’s first witness, IRS Special Agent Timothy Moore, was called in to explain how a financial investigation into St Tammany Workforce Solutions led to accusations of aggravated rape against the former sheriff.
During his opening statement, assistant district attorney J Collin Sims said that IRS agents “tripped” into the sex crimes investigation. According to Moore, the first person he questioned in the investigation into the workforce program also told him that Strain raped him as a child.
Moore detailed how he was given the names of other potential victims and contacted them to look into the claims. Through his investigation, four total victims were identified. That investigation was eventually handed over to the district attorney’s office, as Moore continued pursuing the financial crimes he’s trained to snuff out.
During cross examination, Strain’s attorney accused Moore of leading the alleged victims to claim Strain assaulted them in exchange for the possible forgiveness of their financial crimes. Moore denied the claims, maintaining that both investigation and trials were handled separately even though they unexpectedly started together.
The state then entered a court document into evidence, outlining the alleged victim’s cooperation with investigators that was taken into account during his sentencing. It did not mention the sex crime accusations against Strain.
After Moore was dismissed, Judge Bruce Simpson ended the day early due to severe weather approaching the area.
A new witness will take the stand at 9 a.m. Thursday morning as the trial resumes.