FRANKLINTON, La. - A man who says he was unfairly roughed up over back child support is speaking publicly for the first time about why he says he believes it's retaliation for talking to the FBI about former St. Tammany District Attorney Walter Reed.
"It sounded like a gun, pow! And they thought that they had shot me." That's how Roger Magee describes the confrontation with the Washington Parish Sheriff's Office that left him incapacitated on the floor of his aunt's home last year.
Family members who were there at the time captured the aftermath of it on video on their cell phones. In March 2014, four sheriff's deputies went to arrest Magee at Ruby Walley's Franklinton home.
The video shows Magee on the ground, then officers pick him up in handcuffs. He is heard vomiting in the background after the officers had started to walk him out of the house.
Magee now lives in Arkansas and one point, owed $40,000 in child support to his ex-wife Crystal. She is the one who called the sheriff's office to alert them Magee would be back in Washington Parish.
Deputies converged on the home when he was in town visiting his grandson. Magee said the boy was sitting on his lap at the time when deputies approached.
"They get out and form a line, five of them. They've got their hands on their gun. We're all, I'm shocked, I'm thinking in my mind, what, they're gonna shoot me?" Magee said.
Ruby Walley was there at the time. She remembers the incident vividly and demonstrated to Eyewitness News where the altercation happened on her back patio.
"He got up to go right there to the table to get the papers to show them that he had been to the law up there and got it straightened out," Walley said, showing the location.
Magee said paperwork from Arkansas was evidence that he was applying for disability and not legally required to pay the full amount of back child support. Either way, when he turned to go get the paperwork from the kitchen table that was right inside the door, a deputy fired a Taser gun with its prongs striking Magee in the back, knocking him to the ground.
In fact, one of the family members can be heard saying, "Y'all shot him in the back," in the cell phone video.
The Washington Parish Sheriff has said the fear was Magee could be going inside to get a gun.
"There is a child support issue but what we're alleging is that the true reason for the show of force out there, the tasing of Roger Magee, the way he (the sheriff) was running the jail, had nothing to do with child support, it had everything to do with this back story," said Philip Kaplan, Magee's attorney.
Allegations in lawsuit
Some of the allegations made in that back story are detailed in the lawsuit Magee filed against the Washington Parish Sheriff, former St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed and Pentecostal pastor Jerry Wayne Cox.
Magee is a former member of Cox's church, the Faith Tabernacle outside Franklinton. He alleges that Cox didn't want him to leave the congregation because he was a top tither, giving regular portions of his income to the church.
"Jerry Cox lives in a colony. He keeps all his people colonized," Magee said about the operation of Faith Tabernacle.
According to Magee, a handful of trailers that sit behind the church are populated by about half the members of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation. At the same time, Cox himself lives in a multi-million dollar mansion.
Cox's house sits on more than 300 acres off of Cox Road surrounded by an iron gate marked with his name in gold.
The deed values it at more than $2,050,000 but that only includes three of the 309 acres.
Cox sold the house to the church after building it, with the church taking over the mortgage, and because of that, Faith Tabernacle pays no taxes on it because they are tax-exempt.
According to the assessor, much of the land around the house has a land use tax exemption on it for timber production. It's taxed at the state land use rate of $30 an acre, well below the market value.
Magee said the church itself is another story.
"A lot of the people live on the property at Faith Tabernacle. Most of them are on the high side $1,500 mobile homes, on the low side $500 falling to pieces," he said.
The trailers sit behind an ornate gymnasium of sorts and a school where members of the church send their kids.
Eyewitness Investigator Katie Moore spoke with Cox on the phone to try and get an interview for this story, but he declined. She called him again through the intercom system outside the gilded gate and asked for an interview again last week. He hung up the call twice.
Allegations of excessive use of force
Magee's lawsuit alleges excessive use of force on the part of the sheriff's office.
Washington Parish Sheriff Randy "Country" Seal said his office recently received a state-wide award for rounding up deadbeat dads, but because he's being sued, he can't comment, other than to say, "At the end of the day when we go to court the Washington Parish Sheriff's Office and Randy Seal the Sheriff will be exonerated by all these allegations made by Mr. Magee."
Magee spent 120 days in jail. He said he was told he was being held on a "DA hold" with no bail setting.
"I don't think there is such a thing as a DA hold. But Roger was told, you're staying in here. You're not getting out because there's a DA hold placed on you," Kaplan said.
It's referenced in a letter between Roger Magee and his former attorney, Marion Farmer. Farmer was also the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney before Walter Reed was elected to the office.
In the letter, Farmer tells his client, Magee, that he doesn't think "the law provides for such a District Attorney's 'hold'."
Magee's lawsuit claims the arrest was free speech retaliation for his cooperation with the FBI regarding personal injury cases that former District Attorney Walter Reed handled.
The suit 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."
"Roger, we understand, said some things to the FBI about some settlements and felt that maybe the way those cases were dealt with wasn't quite right. Our information is that Walter Reed had a hand in those cases," Kaplan said.
The connection between Cox and Reed was featured in a Pentecostal publication called Together. In fact, the two men are pictured together in an issue from the summer of 2012. The article details Reed's representation of Pentecostal church members in personal injury lawsuits.
What details Magee shared with the FBI about the Reed/Cox relationship could be uncovered in court as the case moves forward.
Cox's attorney has argued in court filings that he can't be sued on Federal claims because he's not an agent of the state.
As for Reed, his attorney, Richard Simmons, released a statement about the case Wednesday afternoon. This is his emailed statement in its entirety:
The news media should characterize Mr. Magee as the courts have already determined him to be: nothing more than a negligent father who was more than $30,000 in arrears in support of his children.To somehow give any credibility to his claims against Walter Reed is nothing short of preposterous and the height of hypocrisy by media outlets, some of which have already acknowledged Mr. Magee as a "deadbeat dad".
To set the record straight, regarding his arrest, Mr. Magee was over $30,000.00 in arrears in child support when he left for the State of Arkansas.On a trip into Louisiana, he was arrested in Washington Parish by Sheriff's Office Deputies (who have also been sued by Magee).
Magee's lawsuit is a typical prisoner complaint, but in this instance, he has attempted to take advantage of a wave of adverse publicity against Walter Reed in alleging that the District Attorney had him arrested and imprisoned because of an interview Magee had with the FBI years before. The main fallacy in Magee's lawsuit is that Walter Reed was totally unaware of any interview by the FBI, thereby mooting any claim of reprisal on Reed's part.More importantly, Magee's wife, and not Walter Reed called the Sheriff's Office seeking his arrest when he returned to Louisiana.
To tell the whole story and not just the parts the media find convenient, after Magee's release and promise to pay child support beyond an initial $5,000.00 payment, he again fled to Arkansas and failed to make any further payments.Moreover, Magee has now filed a suit to negate his child support obligations and obtain his own financial gain.
The media should be ashamed for promoting the cause of a "deadbeat dad" for the sake of further bashing Mr. Reed.
This week, I will be filing a pleading on behalf of Walter Reed, denying these frivolous allegations which will be decided by the Courts not the media's championing of Mr. Magee's self-serving cause."