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United States v. Scott

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 15, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CHAD SCOTT

         SECTION “H”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Chad Scott's Second Motion to Dismiss the Indictment (Doc. 219). For the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendants Chad Scott, a former DEA Special Agent, and Rodney Gemar, a former DEA Task Force Officer and member of the Hammond Police Department, were charged by Superseding Indictment in May 2018 with multiple counts. Beginning on January 22, 2019, a trial was held on Counts 1 through 7 against Chad Scott. The trial ended in a mistrial on February 4, 2019. A retrial is scheduled to begin on August 19, 2019.

         Subsequent to the trial Defendant Chad Scott filed the instant Motion to Dismiss the Indictment because of alleged witness intimidation and retaliation following the testimony of defense witness James “Skip” Sewell. The Government opposes this Motion. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on March 6 and 8, 2019, regarding the allegations set forth in Defendant's Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant seeks a dismissal of the indictment claiming that his witness, Skip Sewell, was intimidated and retaliated against by the Government after he testified on Defendant's behalf. Specifically, Defendant's Motion states that Sewell was terminated from the DEA Task Force within days of his testimony. Defendant also argues that an individual, identified as “Expert A, ” who had tentatively agreed to serve in his retrial as an expert on DEA asset forfeiture now refuses to testify because he or she fears similar retaliation.

         Considering the evidence taken at the evidentiary hearing and a sealed, in-chambers hearing thereafter, the Court finds the relevant facts to be as follows. Skip Sewell, a retired DEA Special Agent, testified in the trial of Chad Scott on January 30, 2019. As part of his testimony, Sewell stated that after retiring from the DEA in December 2017, he began working for the district attorney in St. Tammany Parish and was at the time of trial approved as a DEA Task Force Officer (“TFO”).

         The evidentiary hearing revealed that at the time of his retirement Sewell was on limited duty status. However, Sewell in good faith believed that he retired in good standing from the DEA. This belief was reasonable in light of a series of errors made by DEA Headquarters and Sewell's local supervisor. Upon his retirement, Sewell received from DEA Headquarters all the credentials and effects suggesting, and indeed expressly indicating, that he had retired in good standing. This issuance was, however, made in error because Sewell was on limited duty status at the time of his retirement.

         In reliance on this error, Sewell indicated on his application to be a TFO with St. Tammany Parish that he had retired in good standing. This inaccurate statement led to the misprocessing of his TFO application, and his file with the DEA Office of Professional Responsibility was not pulled for review in conjunction with his application. Sewell was thereafter given a waiver to serve as a TFO, pending a completed background check.

         This information came to the attention of certain persons at the DEA as a result of Sewell's testimony in the trial of Defendant Chad Scott. Upon review, the aforementioned processing errors were identified, and the processing of Sewell's application was paused. In addition, the waiver allowing Sewell to begin work as a TFO pending a background check was withdrawn. At the time of the evidentiary hearing, Sewell's application was on hold but no decision had been made regarding whether he would or would not be approved as a TFO. Sewell testified that despite the ramifications of his earlier testimony, he would testify on Defendant's behalf at his retrial and his testimony would remain the same.

         News of the withdrawal of Sewell's waiver to work as a TFO shortly after testifying in Defendant's trial became well known in the local DEA community. However, Expert A testified in a sealed, in-chambers hearing that he or she does not fear retaliation and had not agreed to serve as an asset forfeiture expert for Defendant.

         LAW ...


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