Critics say St. Tammany sheriff has failed to properly investigate problem deputies

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ST. TAMMANY PARISH — Sheriff Randy Smith fired one of his deputies last year for stealing a Sheriff’s Office Taser then selling it on the Internet.

Termination paperwork indicates the sheriff’s internal investigation found the deputy engaged in “criminal/immoral activity,” yet Smith chose not to launch a criminal investigation or arrest the deputy.

Nathan Stokes was fired last February and he was granted a shot at an appeal in front of the sheriff’s internal review panel, but the panel also recommended Stokes be terminated.

Stokes’ official response in the paperwork says he doesn’t remember how he got the Taser and that he didn’t falsify records to say it had been formally been issued to him by the department.

St. Tammany-Washington Parish District Attorney Warren Montgomery on Wednesday evening confirmed that the Stokes case “was never referred to my office as a criminal case for investigation or prosecution.”

That case is one of a number cases involving problem deputies that, despite uncovering possibly criminal acts, the sheriff has not turned over to the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney’s office to review for possible prosecution.

For example, an internal investigation into Deputy Bryan “Ricky” Steinert found he falsified information on a DWI report about how suspect Ryan Heyd, performed on a field sobriety test.

Experts who viewed cellphone video taken by one of Heyd’s friends showed Heyd passing the test, while Steinert’s report indicated Heyd stepped offline, used outstretched arms to steady himself and dropped his leg on two of the main parts of a standard field sobriety test.

“It made me think the guy was deranged or something. None of this happened,” said Michael Bradley, Heyd’s attorney.

Heyd declined to be interviewed.

Smith launched an internal investigation into the arrest and said Steinert resigned before Smith had the chance to fire him.

The internal affairs report generated in the Steinert case indicates Steinert admitted to his lieutenant that he “had fabricated his arrest report by coping [sic] and pasting the probable cause from a previous DUI arrest.”

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