A court hearing conducted in secret this year featured startling testimony about a New Orleans-based drug task force that has come under federal investigation, including allegations that a longtime member of the group sold narcotics across state lines and, on at least one occasion, used the drug ecstasy to spike drinks at a social event in New Orleans.
That officer, Karl E. Newman, a former Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office deputy, faces nine counts in a federal indictment unsealed last month, including robbery and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and Oxycodone. He and a former colleague, who both served as part of a task force under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, are scheduled to stand trial in February.
A heavily redacted transcript of Newman's initial federal court appearance offers new details about the government's months-old investigation, including claims that Newman misused DEA databases, provided drugs to potential informants and used violence against a woman following a sexual encounter.
An indicted narcotics officer who served on a New Orleans-based federal drug task force cont…
The U.S. Justice Department appears ready to portray Newman as a rogue deputy who, under lax supervision, broke nearly every rule in the DEA's book, someone who used and sold dope and strong-armed informants.
Indeed, the litany of allegations against Newman went on so long that the judge conducting the hearing, which took place behind closed doors in May, interrupted a special prosecutor at one point to say he had heard enough.
Among other crimes, Newman is accused of stealing cash and narcotics during federal drug raids. The State Police, after testing the officer's hair, determined he had been using methamphetamine at the time of his arrest.
The transcript, which emerged in federal court filings last week, also shows that the Justice Department has uncovered an alarming practice in which the drug task force failed to document confidential sources, including one informant who began assisting in drug cases as early as 2014.
The testimony suggests that at least one recent trial in New Orleans federal court was tainted by false testimony orchestrated by Newman and another law enforcement officer whose name is blacked out of the court record. Those allegations have been brought to the attention of the chief judge of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Kurt D. Engelhardt.
Federal authorities have intensified their investigation into misconduct within the New Orle…
The testimony of Douglas Bruce, an investigator with the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General, represents the most detailed glimpse to date of a misconduct probe that also has resulted in federal and state charges against another former task force member, Johnny Domingue, and the indefinite suspension of Chad A. Scott, a veteran DEA agent who referred to himself as the "white devil" in his dealings with black residents on the north shore.
Scott remains sidelined from the DEA, stripped of his badge and security clearance, and it remains unclear whether he has been charged. (Newman and Domingue were charged in secret, and prosecutors did not unseal their indictment until five months after it was handed up.)
Every apparent mention of Scott's name was redacted from the transcript of Newman's initial appearance, but the special prosecutor, Diidri W. Robinson, made clear in a separate court filing that Bruce's testimony related in large part to "information obtained by law enforcement about" Scott. That filing appears to be the government's first public acknowledgement that Scott, a 17-year member of the DEA, is at the center of its investigation.
"Disclosure of information regarding law enforcement's investigation of Special Agent Scott would jeopardize the ongoing investigation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, (Department of Justice Office of Inspector General) and DEA Office of Professional Responsibility," Robinson wrote.
Scott has declined to comment on the investigation. An attorney for Newman did not respond to requests for comment this week.
Bruce, the Justice Department investigator, acknowledged that much of the government's case against Newman stemmed from the cooperation of Domingue, a young narcotics officer with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office who was hand selected to join Scott's DEA task force.
Domingue, who has pleaded guilty to state drug conspiracy charges, has told investigators that the misconduct on the task force "was a practice that was already in place when he came on board, and he inserted himself sort of in that circle," Bruce testified.
Bruce recounted an August 2015 raid that Newman and Domingue carried out at the home of Rose Graham in Hammond. At least one other task force member was present, but his or her name is redacted from the transcript.
Domingue wrote in a report of the search that law enforcement had seized 20 Oxycodone pills and $3,025. In fact, Domingue later told authorities, there were between 70 and 80 pills, and an additional $3,000 cash that he split with Newman.
Newman told Graham after the search that "she needed to work off her drug debt and go to work for him," Bruce said. The woman began dealing marijuana and cocaine on Newman's behalf, transactions that weren't part of any law enforcement operations.
The arrangement began to unravel when Graham unwittingly sold drugs to an undercover State Police detective.
Newman also is accused of stealing narcotics from DEA evidence lockers. In December 2015, he allegedly filed paperwork within the DEA to transfer some cocaine from an old case.
The cocaine was later found at Domingue’s residence after the State Police carried out a search warrant there, still packaged in DEA evidence labels inside of a FedEx box.
The Justice Department also is investigating an October 2015 arrest that followed a DEA raid of an apartment in Baton Rouge. That search involved Newman, Domingue and "other members of the DEA," according to Bruce.
The investigators found cash and methamphetamine in the residence, and Newman authored a report claiming that $4,300 had been recovered. Both Domingue and the suspect, whose name is redacted from the transcript, claimed there actually had been between $10,000 and $12,000 in the apartment. "He said they kept the money," Bruce said, referring to Domingue's statement to law enforcement.
Entire lines of questioning are redacted from the transcript of Newman's initial appearance, obscuring several parts of the government's case.
One heavily redacted incident involved an unspecified social function Newman attended in New Orleans in which he apparently invited a number of people and "used ecstasy and also put ecstasy in all of their drinks" without their consent, Bruce said.
Soon after this point of the hearing, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle interjected to say that the testimony he had from Bruce "would be sufficient for my purposes (at the initial appearance), unless you have something else concerning violence, guns."
"One more matter," Robinson, the special prosecutor, responded, "involving potential violence."
Bruce then described the aftermath of a "sexual encounter" Newman had with an unnamed woman. The woman had been attempting to leave and "felt Mr. Newman aggressively hold her down, held her back," Bruce said, "and she had to basically run out of the room for fear of being hurt."