Star DEA agent finds himself at center of sprawling probe as drug task force comes under scrutiny

Chad Scott

The defense attorney for Chad Scott, a federal narcotics agent charged with stealing from drug dealers, accused the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday of refusing to hand over thousands of investigative documents that may contain evidence favorable to Scott's defense.

The attorney, Matthew Coman, filed court papers opposing the government's request for a so-called protective order that would limit Scott's access to a cache of materials investigators compiled during a nearly two-year investigation into Scott and his Drug Enforcement Administration task force.

The protective order would prohibit Scott from making copies of the materials — more than 200 gigabytes of data and at least 925,000 records — and disclosing the documents to third parties. 

Scott, a longtime DEA agent and former Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office deputy, was indicted last month on 10 counts of misconduct, including perjury and obstruction of justice. Three of his former task force colleagues also face an array of federal charges in federal court in New Orleans. 

The investigative records should remain protected, the Justice Department contends, because they "contain sensitive information about victims, individuals who have provided information to the government in this matter, and other individuals who remain under investigation."

The materials include financial and travel documents, interview transcripts and an array of search warrants and court filings that remain under seal.

Coman, a former federal prosecutor, countered that the protective order would prevent Scott from preparing for his Dec. 4 trial and unfairly restrict his access to information that could prove useful in interviewing witnesses.

He wrote that the government's concerns about the release of sensitive information are "misplaced and unjustified," likening the secretive investigation to a "Star Chamber proceeding." 

"Such a proposed blanket protective order would shroud the discovery material in virtual secrecy, completely robbing Special Agent Scott ... of the ability to effectively investigate and defend against the charges against him," Coman wrote.  

A federal magistrate is scheduled to hear arguments on the dispute next week. 

Coman also complained that Scott, after returning home on a domestic flight, was arrested at the New Orleans airport Oct. 1 "without any opportunity to turn himself into authorities" and then was held in "isolated custody" for two days as he waited for a judge to set his bail.

Coman wrote that he expects the bulk of the government's discovery to "consist of hearsay documents," adding that the Justice Department "indicted Scott on the uncorroborated word of two career criminals facing 30 years' imprisonment and two 'crooked' cops also facing substantial terms of imprisonment."

Scott, 49, was released last month on $300,000 bail, despite claims by the government that he could not be trusted to appear at trial. He faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted as charged. 

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.