Federal probe of St. Tammany Parish district attorney widens

Walter Reed/FILE (WVUE)
Walter Reed/FILE (WVUE)

COVINGTON, LA (WVUE) - Sources say federal grand jury subpoenas have gone out to several employees in the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney's Office.

This is the latest development in a story FOX 8's Lee Zurik and Nola.com | the Times Picayune first reported several months ago.

Sources say former St Tammany Assistant DA Leo Hemelt, and several others from DA Walter Reed's office were to appear Thursday in front of a federal grand jury. But those sources say it turns out that some of those subpoenaed may have opted to be interviewed privately by members of the U.S. Attorney's Office, or the FBI.

In a series of investigative reports, FOX 8 learned Reed was earning $30,000 a year as a legal adviser to St. Tammany Hospital administrators.

Reed would often allow Hemelt to sit in for him at hospital meetings, and it is not clear if Hemelt was compensated for that work, raising questions about who got the money.

Since the reports first aired, Reed has resigned his position with the hospital and Hemelt left the DA's office.

At this point, sources say it appears as if federal investigators have cast a wide net.

"If you get a subpoena you have to appear but often times its an issue of taking the fifth amendment, and I'm not going to show up, and they don't make you show up, but this may not be that way," said FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti.  "From what I understand, a lot of these people had an agreement to come in and talk to the U.S. Attorney and the FBI in lieu of going to the grand jury. It seems like most of them are targets and not witnesses, and they just wanted to get information out of them."

Raspanti also said, it's hard to determine exactly how far along the federal investigation is at this point.

The grand jury investigation comes on the heels of an FBI visit to the St Tammany DA's office earlier this month.

FOX 8 reached out to the DA's office for a comment on the new developments in the investigation. No one has returned the call at the time this story was published.

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