Attorneys for a man accused of attempting to blackmail NFL star Tyrann Mathieu have escalated their attacks on the lead investigator on the case, claiming in a new court filing that he has a conflict of interest because he worked a private security detail for the football star just weeks after the agent obtained a warrant to have their client arrested for extortion.
Chad Cockerham, a New Orleans Police Department officer who works on an FBI task force, worked a protective detail for Mathieu, known as the "Honey Badger," in mid-May, accompanying him as he proposed to his girlfriend and visited a local strip club.
That created a “stunning” conflict of interest, considering that Cockerham had signed a warrant to have Mathieu's cousin, Geourvon Sears, arrested a couple of weeks earlier, the defense argued in a filing Friday.
Mathieu — a New Orleans native who helped LSU reach the 2012 national championship game — now plays safety for the Kansas City Chiefs and is preparing for his seventh pro season.
Sears, also of New Orleans, was arrested May 1 and accused of sending text messages to Mathieu demanding millions of dollars to keep quiet about claims that the football star had engaged in sexual misconduct. Details of the alleged misconduct haven't been revealed.
Friday's filing from federal public defenders Claude Kelly and Celia Rhoads asked that Sears be released on bail while awaiting trial.
He had initially been granted bail, but it was revoked after he removed an ankle monitor tracking his movements and tested positive for drugs. Sears is scheduled to undergo a mental evaluation on Friday, and the case is scheduled to be back in U.S. District Court on June 19.
Cockerham's lawyer said Monday that the security detail for Mathieu was authorized by his supervisors at the NOPD, who the lawyer said are confident there was no "real or perceived" conflict of interest at play.
“What was done was done out of necessity to protect human life,” attorney Eric Hessler of the Police Association of New Orleans said.
Hessler didn’t elaborate, but Sears, 21, and Mathieu, 27, have accused each other of threatening violence over a falling out.
Attorneys for the man accused of blackmailing New Orleans-born pro football star Tyrann Mathieu tried to turn the tables Wednesday, alleging i…
Kelly has repeatedly questioned whether Cockerham is biased in the case.
As evidence, Kelly points to Cockerham’s admission during a May 22 court hearing that he was part of a security detail that accompanied Mathieu while the athlete visited New Orleans for charity events and other activities just days earlier.
Records obtained by Kelly’s office suggest that a local company named Next Generation Security on May 20 paid $2,400 to the city’s Office of Police and Secondary Employment for NOPD officers who provided off-duty protection to Mathieu.
The records also show that Cockerham had logged a total of 15 hours over the three previous days working for Next Generation, which was coordinating with Mathieu’s foundation.
Kelly asserted that his office “has gathered information suggesting that” Cockerham’s role involved his accompanying Mathieu, his entourage and four black SUVs to Club Spades, a strip club in the 600 block of South Roman Street, which is a short drive from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
According to Kelly, Cockerham also was just off the stage at another event when Mathieu proposed to his girlfriend.
Kelly pointed to cellphone video footage that he said shows Cockerham clapping during the proposal. He also said that a Facebook account bearing Cockerham’s name clicked the "like" button under a photo of the proposal on the Tyrann Mathieu Foundation’s page.
Kelly expressed disgust that Cockerham said he couldn’t "recall" liking the proposal photo when asked about it on the witness stand.
Additionally, Kelly said two details in Cockerham’s warrant should call its overall accuracy into question.
One involved an allegation that Sears sent a voice recording saying, “I want 1.5 million by Friday or I am going to kill you all.” The other centered on describing Mathieu’s “Era Nation” group as a youth mentoring organization.
Kelly said the only evidence on record so far is a shaky video of some unknown person’s phone playing the recorded threat. He said there is no mention of $1.5 million, and there are references to alleged threats from Mathieu to Sears’ family that are omitted from the warrant.
Furthermore, Kelly said “a simple Google search of the term ‘Era Nation’” revealed a 2012 Sports Illustrated article which recounted how the group included friends of Mathieu from high school who would use his celebrity to promote things like nightclub parties.
Cockerham addressed that discrepancy in court, saying he had no reason to doubt the Mathieu camp’s word on what Era Nation was as he took down their complaint against Sears.
Mathieu's representatives have responded to Sears' claims by saying he is mentally ill and out for revenge after being financially cut off by Mathieu.
Messages offered up as evidence that New Orleans-raised Tyrann Mathieu threatened a man accused of blackmailing the star athlete offer a peek …