The defense attorney for indicted former narcotics agent Chad Scott on Wednesday accused the U.S. Justice Department of trying to conceal misconduct on the part of the government agents who investigated Scott's New Orleans-based federal drug task force.
The attorney, Matthew Coman, said federal authorities conducted a "flawed investigation" that improperly focused on Scott from the outset, despite conflicting statements the government received from its cooperating witnesses.
Prosecutors last year charged Scott and three other former members of his U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force with stealing cash and drugs during narcotics raids, among other counts.
In the months since Scott was indicted, Coman said, the Justice Department has withheld evidence favorable to Scott, including a recording of federal agents saying they were trying to persuade Karl Newman, a co-defendant, to "roll on" Scott.
Coman wrote in a court filing that the agents had just finished an interview in Kentucky and apparently were unaware they were being recorded when the conversation took place. One agent can be heard saying that Newman would "throw mud on everybody, or try to," once taken into custody.
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Newman, a former DEA task force member and Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office deputy, has, in fact, implicated Scott and pleaded guilty to conspiracy and firearms charges.
"It's not Karl (Newman) we even want — it's someone else," the agent is heard saying, according to Coman's filing. "That's how the game is played."
Coman has contended that the government's case rests on the testimony of drug traffickers and "crooked" cops, including Newman and Johnny Domingue, another task force member who pleaded guilty to federal charges last week.
Coman called the agents' statements "shameful" and complained that the government has not provided him a copy of the recording.
"It is clear why the government wants to continue to bury such misconduct," Coman, a former top federal prosecutor, wrote in the filing. "However, exposure and embarrassment are not legal grounds to withhold such material."
The Justice Department has not responded to Coman's allegations.
Coman did not return a call Wednesday seeking further comment.
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The court filing offered new details about the government's investigation of the DEA task force, including that agents interviewed at least 95 witnesses during their nearly two-year investigation.
The government recently turned over to the defense more than a terabyte of data on seven flash drives — a massive trove of material that prompted a judge to delay Scott's trial until October.
But Coman wrote that he has been required to visit the FBI's local field office to inspect other sensitive evidence, including 8,555 documents and 14 computers that had been seized from the DEA.
Prosecutors told Coman that he could not copy or photograph the records. During his inspection of them, Coman said, he has been permitted to take only handwritten notes and was monitored the entire time. That "look and leave" process has hindered his ability to prepare for Scott's trial, he wrote.
Still, Coman said his review of the evidence so far shows that much of it contains information beneficial to Scott's defense. In one interview, for example, Domingue told investigators that he never saw Scott steal any money. In another conversation, Newman acknowledges having a poor memory, Coman wrote.
The withheld evidence also includes interviews with former DEA brass and federal prosecutors, who according to Coman told investigators they don't believe Scott committed misconduct during his nearly two decades with the DEA.