The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has given new life to a lawsuit against former St Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed and a local pastor, filed by a man who says he was unfairly roughed up over back child support in retaliation for talking to the FBI.
Roger Magee filed the lawsuit in 2015 alleging Reed committed false imprisonment, free speech retaliation, and procedural due process violations and Magee claimed he was the victim of free speech retaliation by Pentecostal pastor Jerry Wayne Cox.
In 2014, four Washington Parish Sheriff's deputies surrounded Magee at a relative's Franklinton home in an attempt to arrest him for $40,000 in back child support.
One of them shot Magee with a stun gun, incapacitating him, even though cell phone video showed he was not resisting arrest. Deputies later said they thought Magee might have been reaching for a gun when he tried to grab paperwork showing he no longer owed his ex-wife the money.
"It sounded like a gun, pow! And they thought that they had shot me," Magee said about the confrontation in an interview with WWL-TV and partner newspaper the New Orleans Advocate in 2015.
Magee spent 120 days in jail. He said he was told he was being held on a "DA hold" with no bail setting, something Reed's attorneys denied in court filings.
A former member of Cox's church, the Faith Tabernacle, which is located outside Franklinton, Magee said he spoke regularly to the FBI about allegations of tax fraud Cox had committed while pastor of the church in the years prior to Magee's arrest.
As would later be revealed in Federal criminal cases against Cox and Reed, the two conspired to funnel personal injury clients who were members of the Pentecostal church to Reed's private law practice.
Magee's lawsuit claims, "Among other things, plaintiff spoke to the FBI about personal injury referrals that had been made by Jerry Wayne to Reed, settlements of those matters, issues about how those cases were settled, and questions about how and to whom settlement proceeds were distributed."
Magee alleges Cox and Reed conspired to put him in jail and orchestrated the incident with sheriff's deputies in order to silence him, violating his civil rights in the process.
In 2015, Washington Parish Sheriff Randy "Country" Seal denied the arrest was retaliation of any kind. Seal said his office had received a state-wide award for rounding up deadbeat dads, but because he was being sued, he could not comment on the Magee arrest.
A jury agreed with Seal in 2017, finding the sheriff and the WPSO did not violate Magee's civil rights. The judge then threw out the rest of Magee's claims against Cox and Reed.
But the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court ruling, reinstating the lawsuit against Cox and Reed, arguing those claims related to Magee's imprisonment for 120 days, not the arrest.
Because a jury did not decide whether Magee was improperly imprisoned, the judge sent the case back to the district court.
Magee's attorney, Philip Kaplan, said his client was "ecstatic" when he heard the court reinstated the lawsuit.
An attorney for Cox declined to comment and Reed's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.