A former St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy who was fired last year and booked on suspicion of perjury over court testimony that helped scuttle a major marijuana prosecution has found a new job — as a deputy with the neighboring St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office.
St. James Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. confirmed Thursday he hired Deputy Cody Malkiewicz, 31, a few weeks ago.
Martin declined to discuss his view of the criminal allegations that were lodged against Malkiewicz, a four-year law enforcement veteran. But he said Malkiewicz, who last year wed a longtime employee of the St. James Sheriff’s Office, had “nothing hanging over his head” when he was hired.
“I’m not going to tell you I was totally comfortable with it, but from everything I learned from the young man, and people I respect who went to bat for him, I (decided) I would give him a chance,” Martin said.
The criminal case against Malkiewicz appears to have vanished from St. John Parish court records.
Despite his April 2015 arrest and booking, an employee of the St. John Clerk of Court’s Office said Thursday the office had no record of any case naming Malkiewicz as a defendant. Neither District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut nor Clerk of Court Eliana DeFrancesch responded to requests for information about the status of the case.
Criminal defense attorney David Belfield, whose questioning of Malkiewicz about a 2014 traffic stop on Interstate 10 sparked the deputy’s firing and arrest, said it appears that Dinvaut’s office dismissed the perjury count and then allowed Malkiewicz to secure an unusually swift expungement of the matter.
That process essentially wipes clean a defendant’s criminal charge, as if it never happened.
Malkiewicz led an Interstate 10 traffic stop in July 2014 that netted a whopping 120 pounds of marijuana and $18,000 in cash, prompting Sheriff Mike Tregre’s office to present him to the media as a model cop.
The deputy and his K-9 dog, Odeke, briefly took the spotlight.
“Being a police officer, you don’t get recognition that much, and when you get something like this, it makes you feel like you’re doing really good for the community,” Malkiewicz told WGNO shortly after the high-profile bust.
Belfield represented a Slidell couple, Adam Landry and Miranda Davis, who were arrested in the traffic stop and booked on numerous drug counts. He said Malkiewicz testified at a preliminary hearing that he pulled over the couple randomly after seeing them swerve on the interstate and that Odeke sniffed out the marijuana.
Belfield said other evidence pointed to a “pretense” stop that had been directed by federal agents.
“He lied about the whole set-up that got this couple arrested. (He was) working with the DEA, the ATF, all these different federal agencies. There was a DEA agent following the car all the way from Houston, radioing ahead to the parishes to be on the lookout for this call,” Belfield said. “He said, ‘I just happened to be passing along; I happened to see this car; the car just happened to swerve.’ He lied about that.”
Dinvaut’s office tossed out the case, though Landry has since pleaded guilty to related charges in St. Tammany Parish and was sentenced to a 10-year prison term, Belfield said.
The defense attorney scoffed at the idea Malkiewicz has landed a new job across the parish line.
“How is it that a person who is charged with protecting and serving, who lies on the witness stand on a criminal matter that gets people arrested, he’s fired in St. John for lying and then hired in St. James?” Belfield said. “Why didn’t they take him back to work in St. John Parish?”
Tregre also fired another St. John deputy, Lt. Daniel Moldaner, for unprofessional conduct in connection with the same drug case.
Martin said he conducted a particularly thorough review of Malkiewicz before hiring him, and he insisted that he didn’t consult Tregre, who last year described the deputy’s conduct as “embarrassing” and “illegal” in one news account. But Martin said other St. John Sheriff’s Office brass endorsed Malkiewicz.
“I did have recommendations on his behalf from co-workers, people who served with him, even supervisors. My staff’s recommendation was to hire him,” Martin said, adding that Malkiewicz lives in St. James Parish.
“He is a resident and he came with experience, and I just didn’t see anything (negative).”
Malkiewicz is now among about 30 deputies on patrol in St. James Parish.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.