Walter Reed

The ex-wife of a man who claims he was kept in jail on the orders of 22nd Judicial District Attorney Walter Reed as retribution for talking to the FBI says she was the one who called the Sheriff’s Office seeking to have him arrested.

Roger Magee filed a lawsuit last month claiming that Reed had him incarcerated indefinitely on a “DA hold” for failure to pay child support because Reed was angry that Magee had talked to the FBI about Reed’s outside legal work.

Crystal Magee’s version of events doesn’t necessarily contradict what her ex-husband claims in his suit. But her account suggests that it was a phone call from her to Washington Parish Sheriff Randy “Country” Seal’s office that led deputies to arrest her ex-husband in the first place.

Crystal Magee also said she consented to her ex-husband’s release this summer after 97 days in jail so that he could begin paying her child support again. She said she did so after consulting with Jerry Wayne Cox, a Pentecostal minister based in Franklinton whose relationship with Reed was the purported topic of Roger Magee’s conversations with the FBI.

Chief Deputy Mike Haley — who along with Seal, Reed and Cox is among the named defendants in the suit — told The New Orleans Advocate on Tuesday that deputies had been acting on a tip when they went to arrest Roger Magee. Records show a warrant for Roger Magee’s arrest for failing to pay child support was issued in September 2011.

Roger Magee’s lawsuit is vague about what he allegedly told the feds, but it says it concerned “personal injury referrals that had been made by (Cox) to Reed, settlements of those matters, issues about how those cases were settled, and questions about how and to whom settlement proceeds were distributed.”

It’s not clear why the relationship between Cox and Reed would be of interest to the FBI, although critics have raised ethical questions about Reed’s pursuit of civil cases that could conflict with his duties as a prosecutor. Reed is the subject of a federal grand jury investigation.

Reed has said in the past that Cox referred numerous personal injury cases to him, or to McCranie Sistrunk, a private law firm where Reed is “of counsel.”

Among them, apparently, was a case in which a trucker was cited for criminal negligence in an accident that killed two women in St. Tammany Parish. Reed recused the DA’s Office from prosecuting the criminal case so that McCranie Sistrunk could represent the families of the dead women in a civil matter, which resulted in a $2.4 million judgment.

Cox also told The New Orleans Advocate that he had referred to Reed a potential civil case involving the drowning of two young children in an unfenced swimming pool. He said he never received any money for a referral.

Roger Magee’s suit further maintains that Cox visited him in 2012 in Arkansas, where Magee lives, and said: “You didn’t scare us (Reed and Cox) much with the FBI; well, you scared us a little.” Cox also allegedly warned Magee that if he came into Louisiana, “Reed will handle you!”

Reed’s jurisdiction includes both St. Tammany and Washington parishes.

Magee claims in his suit that a day after he was released in July, Cox’s daughter called him and said her father had secured his release by intervening with Reed. She then allegedly asked him whether he planned to “pursue this any further,” the suit says, which Magee interpreted as a reference to his cooperation with the FBI.

Both Crystal Magee and Cox said they did in fact discuss Roger Magee’s continued incarceration. Crystal Magee said her ex-husband’s relatives told her they could come up with $5,000 in child-support payments immediately if he was released — far less than the $39,000 he owed, but better than nothing.

Cox said he counseled her that Roger Magee would be unable to pay anything if he remained in jail. She then informed the DA’s Office that she would agree to his release, provided he paid the smaller sum and agreed to make payments in the future.

“I am the reason he’s out,” Cox said. “They were not gonna let him out unless he came up with $39,000.” Crystal Magee said she received the $5,000 when her ex-husband was released. He is supposed to start making regular monthly payments this month, she said, but she has not received any yet.

Reed has denied through his lawyer that his office’s handling of the case had anything to do with Roger Magee’s alleged conversations with the FBI. The lawyer, Rick Simmons, called Magee’s suit “frivolous,” adding: “It looks like maybe he’s trying to trade false information in exchange for some kind of favorable treatment to release himself from his obligations. I think he’s just taking advantage of this wave of media scrutiny of the DA’s Office to get some sort of favorable treatment.”

Cox, who described Roger Magee as a former member of his church, Faith Tabernacle, called Magee a “suer” and a “faker” but said he loves him nonetheless.

Reed has announced he will not seek re-election this fall.

Follow Gordon Russell on Twitter, @gordonrussell1.