Guilty plea filed in drug conspiracy involving north shore law enforcement _lowres

Rose P. Graham

New details emerged Tuesday about the arrest of a Louisiana narcotics officer assigned to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force, as State Police released a report showing the deputy was booked with an alleged accomplice accused of distributing more than 5 pounds of marijuana.

The single-paragraph report raised new questions about a secretive investigation that landed Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Johnny Domingue behind bars last month — a case that could have far-reaching effects on New Orleans-area drug prosecutions.

It also revealed that Domingue, 27, was booked alongside Rose Pierson Graham, a Hammond woman released on $150,000 bail.

Authorities remained tight-lipped Tuesday and would not elaborate on Graham’s alleged role in the case.

The State Police, an agency that often is talkative when it comes to law enforcement misconduct, have declined to comment on the investigation beyond confirming the charges Graham and Domingue face: conspiracy and drug distribution.

Graham did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Domingue remained jailed in Livingston Parish, where he was transferred after being booked Jan. 26 in St. Tammany Parish. His family referred questions to attorney Sherman Mack, a state representative who was in session Tuesday and did not return messages seeking comment.

The investigation has a number of moving parts and appears to involve the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates allegations of misconduct involving agents and other agency personnel.

Domingue’s arrest came less than two weeks before DEA brass reassigned Keith Brown, who had served as special agent in charge of the DEA’s New Orleans field division for two years.

A DEA spokeswoman said last week that Brown’s transfer to Washington, D.C., headquarters had been a lateral move and did not stem from any disciplinary action.

A former DEA agent, however, said the move represents an unequivocal “loss of status,” adding, “There isn’t a DEA employee who’s going to tell you it’s a good thing.”

Brown himself seemed to say as much in an email he sent colleagues upon his departure from New Orleans, suggesting he had reached his “lowest point.”

“As most of you are now aware, I will no longer be serving as the special agent in charge of the New Orleans Field Division,” Brown wrote, adding that he was proud of his team’s accomplishments. “You fight the good fight everyday, and you make the world a better place by your efforts and by the quality of your character.”

The DEA declined to verify the authenticity of the email, which was provided to The New Orleans Advocate through a disposable email address service. The email was dated Feb. 8, the day Brown’s replacement, Stephen G. Azzam, was named internally.

“I have repeatedly said that I love the people who do this job,” Brown added in the note. “That remains true today, even at my lowest point.”

The inquiry also appears to be focusing on DEA Agent Chad Scott, a prolific investigator who previously worked for the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office. Scott faces a series of misconduct allegations — some of which remain under seal — from defense attorneys who have questioned his tactics.

Public defender Valerie Jusselin alleged in court filings this month that she has “uncovered evidence” that Scott has been illegally “communicating with persons on federal supervised release.”

A DEA spokeswoman, Special Agent Debbie Webber, declined to say Tuesday whether Scott remains employed by the agency.

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian. Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.