COVINGTON, La.--Two-time sex offender Joshua Hanson, 27, has spent more than two years in protective custody at the St. Tammany parish jail, but after a joint WWL-TV/New Orleans Advocate investigation exposed allegations of unfair, favorable treatment because of his extensive family ties to the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office, Hanson was moved to a state prison Monday.
Hanson was convicted of charges related to sex with an underage girl in both St. Tammany and Orleans parishes. He was sentenced to seven years in prison to be served under the La. Department of Corrections.
Many of Louisiana’s state prisoners, especially those with lighter sentences, are assigned to local jails to serve their time because of limited prison space, however, the apparent conflict of interest raised by Hanson’s ties to the sheriff’s office should have led St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain to request that Hanson be transferred to state custody, according to criminal justice experts.
Hanson had also pleaded guilty to failing to register as a sex offender, after a prior conviction for aggravated sexual assault of a child while he was serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Polk, despite living at home with his parents, both ranking sheriff’s officers.
Hanson’s latest victim first made the allegation he was getting a sweetheart deal because of the number of Hanson’s relatives who worked in the sheriff’s office.
“I feel as if it was a game to them. I feel played,” his latest victim, who did not want to be identified, said.
Josh Hanson is related to at least six St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's deputies, many of them ranking members. His extended family members increase that number to more than ten, not including the family members who own part of a private company that was awarded a no-bid contract by Sheriff Jack Strain to run a work release program for him in Slidell.
“At least one of them is a rank within the jail facility. So, as such, his relative, is in part responsible for making sure that inmate conforms with all the rules and regulations of the jail,” said Rafael Goyeneche, President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Goyeneche said Hanson's continued housing in St. Tammany created an apparent conflict of interest.
Multiple sources close to the jail said Hanson had access to an X-box video game system when he was housed in a protective tier with former New Orleans Saint Darren Sharper.
Then another source with ties to the jail said Hanson was moved to a tier to himself after an argument with another inmate. It's unclear if that argument was between Hanson and Sharper or Hanson and another inmate.
A spokesman for Strain said it was their routine policy not to comment on inmate locations or movements.
The St. Tammany Sheriff's Office had not requested that DOC come pick up Hanson until late last week, after our second story aired about Hanson on Wednesday.
A DOC spokeswoman said that Hanson was transferred to the agency’s processing center at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center Monday. An email from an investigator at the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney’s office, obtained through a public records request, raised questions about the allegations of special treatment September 3, 2015.
St. Tammany District Attorney Warren Montgomery said his office received the investigator's email three weeks before Hanson's scheduled trial date and at that point there were "practical" reasons for him to remain in St. Tammany. Montgomery went on to say in an emailed statement, "It is not our responsibility—nor do we have the authority—to house prisoners or to determine their treatment."
Again, Hanson remained in the St. Tammany Jail until Monday.
After hearing the news of Hanson’s transfer, his latest victim said she was glad he is being moved and that “I just hope he realizes he can't get away with it. He has to suffer for the crimes that he committed. He can't get special treatment anymore."
A spokesman for Strain didn't not respond to requests for comment on why jail administrators requested Hanson's transfer.