FBI New Orleans

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After a sprawling criminal investigation that started with a complaint about his behavior in Florida, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and FBI special agent tasked with investigating crimes against children now faces sex crime charges of his own — involving juvenile and adult victims — in both Louisiana and Texas.

David Harris, 51, was arrested last month in Ascension Parish, where he lives. During a bond hearing July 1, the court declared him a "threat to the public at large" and ordered him held without bail. The decision came after an investigator testified that Harris had threatened two of his victims with violence in an apparent attempt to keep them quiet. 

The allegations date back several years, overlapping with the successful law enforcement and military careers Harris pursued for decades, starting with his 1992 graduation from West Point. His most recent assignment for the FBI involved investigating crimes against children, including child pornography.

His own alleged crimes span three Southern states and involve a handful of victims, both children and adults, according to court records and law enforcement officials. 

Harris was arrested in Ascension Parish on counts of indecent behavior with children under 13 and crimes against nature. He has an outstanding warrant in Orleans Parish for sexual battery and attempted third-degree rape and a warrant in East Baton Rouge for aggravated crimes against nature, indecent behavior with juveniles, obscenity and witness intimidation.

In Smith County, Texas, he faces charges of indecency with a child. Harris remains under investigation in Florida, but no warrant has been issued there.

Details about the allegations remain scarce because the Louisiana warrants were filed under seal, and Texas officials have not released theirs.

In the meantime, a transcript from the bond hearing reveals the scope of the ongoing investigation and new details about the case.

Sgt. Jay Donaldson, a Louisiana state trooper assigned to the case, testified that Harris had "threatened a juvenile victim and also planned … to harm another victim if any problems arose for him."

Donaldson also testified that the two victims in Ascension Parish case are minors.

Ascension Parish Judge Katherine Tess Stromberg concluded Harris posed a danger to the public if released from jail. She deemed him a flight risk after hearing testimony about his close connections to relatives in Alaska, including his father and siblings.

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Harris also had an intimate relationship with a woman in Alaska whom he recently contacted, which "gives us reason to believe that may be an issue upon his release — that he goes to Alaska," Donaldson said.

Harris lived with his wife and daughter in Prairieville but sometimes traveled for work and to visit family, officials said. He was assigned to the FBI New Orleans Field Office.

Attorneys for Harris emphasized that he knew about the allegations for months before his arrest and made no moves to evade law enforcement.

He learned about the investigation not long after the complaint was received in February, when he was completing an 18-month assignment to the FBI Internet Crimes Against Children unit based in Baltimore, his attorney said. At that point, he was placed on indefinite suspension from the assignment and sent back to Baton Rouge, his local FBI office.

Months later, he was arrested in Ascension Parish. He had no disciplinary record with the FBI and no known criminal history at the time, investigators testified.

Harris served as an infantry officer in the Army Reserve based in Louisiana, according to a military spokesman. His record includes numerous awards and commendations.

"He has served this country honorably for his entire life," his attorney Craig Mordock said during the hearing. "These allegations are completely out of character."

But prosecutors noted the seriousness and scope of the alleged offenses.

"While he does not have a previous record as far as convictions, he does have a history of doing this all over the United States," said Assistant District Attorney Leila Braswell.

Those cases and the one in Texas likely will proceed after the charges in Ascension are resolved.

It was not immediately clear whether Harris had been placed on leave from either the FBI or the Army Reserve. FBI officials have declined to answer questions about his employment status, saying only that the agency is "fully cooperating in this matter."

Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.