CCST says it re-directed complainants against Strain to feds

Strain investigation includes sex abuse allegations

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A North Shore watchdog group says as soon as they received allegations of sexual assault involving minors against former Sheriff Jack Strain, they reached out to the feds.

Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany says some of the allegations go back 20 or 30 years. A law enforcement source confirms the FBI and the St Tammany district attorney are looking into sexual assault allegations against Strain, and citizens are concerned.

“I was a little surprised. As a public official, you don’t expect to hear those things but you don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors,” said Ryan Sampley in Slidell.

“We took that information and gave it to the FBI and the IG, and I asked them not to contact me any more,” said Terry King with Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany.

A law enforcement source says the allegations involving the sexual assault of minors could tie into an ongoing investigation of kickbacks through a now-defunct halfway house program in Slidell that operated under Strain. This week, two former Sheriff’s Office captains under Strain, David Hanson and Cliff Keen, pleaded not guilty in federal court to a federal bill of information that also listed a third party referred to as a public official believed to be Strain.

“If they would cooperate they would use that against the real target, in this case, the sheriff,” said defense attorney Bobby Hjortsberg, who is not involved in the case.

He believes an indictment against Strain is imminent.

“Ultimately in this situation if they find that violated someones civil rights, that would be serious. Any time you file under a federal statute, especially that one, it could wind up being really bad for him,” Hjortsberg said.

Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany say they were involved in several investigations of wrongdoing, but when allegations of sexual assault surfaced, they thought it was beyond their scope.

“When you start looking into crimes like that, the sensitivity and the psychological nature is fragile, and I’m not prepared for that, I’m not trained,” said King.

The St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office issued a statement, saying: “No such complaint(s) have been made with the STPSO - we have had no complainants come forward at this time related to the sexual abuse allegations. That said, the STPSO will cooperate fully with the FBI and DA’s office as needed or requested.”

But local authorities could get more involved later.

“If they were able to find some sort of sexual assault that did not apply to the fed statute, they would turn that over to state authorities,” said Hjortsberg.

In a parish where federal convictions were brought against a former DA and a former coroner, citizens look for one thing.

"Justice, and there's very little of it going on right now," said Mark Anderson of Slidell.

The St. Tammany DA issued the following revised statement after our piece aired:

"After further consideration I have changed my statement on the Jack Strain situation from “no comment” to “I am not commenting on these allegations because doing so could compromise ongoing investigations, the public perception of the independent, fair and impartial administration of justice and an unbiased jury. The people of St. Tammany Parish deserve a fair justice system and my office is an important part of that system.”

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