An Arkansas man who was arrested on nonpayment of child support during a visit to Washington Parish in March has filed suit in federal court claiming that he was held in jail for 97 days as retribution for going to the FBI with information about 22nd Judicial District Attorney Walter Reed and Jerry Wayne Cox, a pastor at Faith Tabernacle Church in Franklinton.
Roger Dale Magee, 49, was arrested in April for failing to pay $39,000 in child support. In his lawsuit, Magee claims that Washington Parish sheriff’s deputies used a Taser on him twice, once after he was handcuffed. He alleges he lost consciousness and suffered a brain injury and other trauma.
Deputies allegedly refused requests from Magee’s family to call an ambulance, instead taking Magee to the Washington Parish Jail, where the suit says he was denied medical care for his injuries. He didn’t get a CT scan until a month and a half after his arrest and was denied insulin for three and four days at a time, the suit says, despite the fact that the jail was informed he has diabetes.
The suit, filed on Aug. 29, claims that Magee’s right to free speech was denied and levels accusations that his conversations with the FBI led to his arrest and imprisonment. Along with Reed and Cox, the suit names Washington Parish Sheriff Randy “Country” Seal and several subordinates as defendants.
According to the suit, Magee went to the FBI several years ago with information about Cox and a property damage claim that the preacher had made. He also told agents about Cox’s relationship with Reed, personal injury referrals that were made by Cox to Reed, and “settlements of those matters, issues about how those cases were settled and questions about how and to whom settlement proceeds were distributed.”
A federal grand jury is investigating Reed, who has announced he won’t seek re-election this fall.
An attorney for Reed and a spokesman for Seal both scoffed at Magee’s allegations, saying that Magee appears to be trying to avoid his own legal problems by claiming he’s some sort of whistleblower.
“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,” said Rick Simmons, Reed’s lawyer. “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.”
Simmons called it a “frivolous lawsuit filed by a guy with felony convictions.”
Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mike Haley, a spokesman for Seal, called the allegations in the suit “completely false.” He said deputies used force only because Magee resisted, and that Reed and Seal had no discussions about Magee or his case.
Cox said in a telephone interview that he had not seen the suit but had heard about it. He generally denied the allegations and described Magee as a former parishioner who was angry with him because Cox told him to stop coming to his church.
By Reed’s description, he is close to Cox, and the preacher has referred various matters to him for civil litigation. In a letter that Reed sent out to Pentecostal preachers all over the country, he described the pastor as “one of my closest friends in life.” Reed also donated $25,000 from his campaign fund to Faith Tabernacle’s building fund in 2013.
The letter to the Pentecostal preachers touted Reed’s work in representing members of several congregations in personal-injury cases. So did an article in an online magazine for Pentecostals. Reed cited one case in particular that earned a $2.4 million settlement for the families of two women killed in 2011 in an automobile accident in Hammond.
Reed recused his office from prosecuting the truck driver in that case because he said he is “of counsel” with the law firm McCranie Sistrunk, which represented the plaintiffs. Critics blasted Reed for choosing to profit from the civil case rather than honor his obligation as an elected official to prosecute those accused of crimes.
Magee’s lawsuit does not specify what cases he told the FBI about. But he alleges that Cox visited him in Arkansas in August 2012 and said that he and Reed knew about his visit with the FBI. “You didn’t scare us much with the FBI; well, you scared us a little,” the suit alleges Cox said.
Cox also allegedly told Magee that Reed was an ex-FBI agent and would “take care of it,” and then warned him not to come to Louisiana or “Reed will handle you.”
Cox denied uttering those words but said he had heard that Magee had tried to provide information about him and Reed to the FBI. Cox said he once referred the parents of two children who drowned in a swimming pool to McCranie Sistrunk for a possible civil suit, at the request of a fellow preacher. The dead children’s grandfather was a friend of Magee’s and was angry he hadn’t received any of the settlement money, Cox said. He believes that is what Magee told the FBI about. Cox said he never received any money.
“They thought that I got some money from them getting a settlement,” Cox said. “Jesus Christ, I didn’t have nothing to do with that. I was just trying to help a preacher friend of mine. But Roger threatened that he was gonna turn me and Walter Reed in to the FBI.”
According to the lawsuit, when Magee came to Louisiana on March 28 to visit family, deputies arrived half an hour later and arrested him. Then, he says, he was denied bail despite numerous attempts by family and criminal defense attorneys to get him out of jail. The reason they were given, according to the suit, is a “DA hold.”
“Plaintiff alleges that while there is a hold known as a ‘parole hold (disallowing bail),’ there is no such thing as a ‘DA hold.’ ”
The suit alleges that the hold amounted to false imprisonment by Reed and Seal, the sheriff, who also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Haley, Seal’s spokesman, said he likewise has never heard of a “DA hold.” He said that bond in Magee’s case was set by a magistrate.
Haley said the Sheriff’s Office received information that Magee was going to be in Washington Parish, and because he was considered a fugitive, the office dispatched several deputies to his house.
“We sent several deputies because Mr. Magee has a history of violence and resisting,” Haley said. “He has never been a compliant person. There has always been resistance from him. We felt it was better to have several deputies there. When you have several deputies, a person is much less apt to offer resistance.”
Asked for specifics on Magee’s history of violent behavior, Haley said: “I don’t have his criminal history before me. The only thing I can say with certainty is he doesn’t pay child support, and that’s why we had the warrant for him. I can’t offer specifics.”