A St Tammany Parish Grand Jury indicted a former sheriff’s deputy for allegedly stealing a St Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Taser, then selling it on the internet.
Nathan Stokes, 39, is now facing charges of malfeasance in office and theft under $750.
He was fired from the sheriff’s office last year, but Sheriff Randy Smith did not launch a criminal probe, instead letting the case end with Stokes’ termination.
Smith sent the Stokes case to District Attorney Warren Montgomery for review after investigative reports by WWLTV and the New Orleans Advocate on the case.
Stokes’ termination paperwork indicates the sheriff’s internal investigation into the incident found the deputy engaged in “criminal/immoral activity,” yet Smith chose not to launch a criminal investigation or arrest the deputy.
Thursday, Smith issued a statement on the indictment:
“We are pleased to have worked in conjunction and cooperation with Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office and District Attorney Warren Montgomery and his staff, who yesterday secured a Grand Jury indictment on charges against former deputy Nathan Stokes,” Sheriff Randy Smith said. “I will continue to demand accountability and professionalism throughout the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.”
Stokes’ official response in the paperwork says he doesn't remember how he got the Taser, and that he didn't falsify records to say it had been formally been issued to him by the department.
The Stokes case is one of a number cases involving problem deputies that, despite uncovering possibly criminal acts, the sheriff had not turned over to the St Tammany Parish District Attorney’s office to review for possible prosecution.
For example, an internal investigation into Deputy Bryan “Ricky” Steinert found he falsified information on a DWI report about how a man performed on a field sobriety test.
Cell phone video taken by one of the suspect’s friends showed him passing the test, while Steinert’s report indicated the man stepped offline, used outstretched arms to steady himself and dropped his leg on two of the main parts of a standard field sobriety test.
Smith launched an internal investigation into the arrest and said Steinert resigned before Smith had the chance to fire him.
After the joint WWL-TV/New Orleans Advocate investigation report about Steinert, Smith announced he would ask the La. Attorney General to review the Steinert case and other past cases involving problem deputies.
“After consulting with District Attorney Warren Montgomery, we both agree that an independent review of this case by the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General is appropriate in order to put any concerns to rest that the public still may have about this and other cases,” Smith said in a news release.
The Attorney General has completed his review of the Steinert case, but Montgomery has not yet made a charging decision.