NEW ORLEANS — Former St Tammany Sheriff Rodney “Jack” Strain has entered a guilty plea to a single count of bribery in the federal corruption case against him Wednesday.
The guilty plea comes just weeks after he was found guilty by a St. Tammany Parish jury on multiple counts of aggravated rape and incest for abuse that spanned decades.
Strain faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine after the federal plea.
Strain had been facing 16 federal corruption counts in a bribery and kickback scheme involving an inmate work release program he privatized as sheriff.
“It’s exactly what I would have expected,” said Loyola Law Professor Dane Ciolino. “I’m not surprised at all given that he’s facing multiple life sentences in the state case.”
Five men, some of them relatives of Strain’s, told the jury Strain raped and sexually abused them starting when some of them were children. Jurors found Strain guilty as charged.
Most of the sex crimes victims had ties to the sheriff’s office and two inmate work release programs Strain handed to some of his closest friends to run while he was St Tammany Sheriff. One of the victims, Mark Finn, was an inmate who alleges he received special treatment while he has been in and out of jail over the past several decades.
The federal case stems from the Slidell work release site, which Strain awarded a no-bid contract to a company owned by the children of two of his top deputies and friends to run.
David Hanson Sr. and Clifford "Skip" Keen, have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in federal court for allegedly funneling Strain money from the program.
The adult children of Hanson and Keen formed a company called St. Tammany Workforce Solutions LLC a few months before Strain awarded the company a no-bid contract.
A series of investigative reports by WWLTV and The New Orleans Advocate first raised questions about the arrangement in 2013.
In the work-release program, inmates at the end of their sentences worked jobs in the community during the day and stayed at the prison-like barracks overnight.
St. Tammany Workforce Solutions received state and federal tax dollars in the form of a per diem to house the inmates and took nearly 70 percent of the inmates' pay for room and board. Court documents indicate the company made more than $1.2 million in the three years it was in operation.