US agent sues Louisiana sheriff over defamation arrest
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal agent is suing a Louisiana sheriff, saying he was illegally arrested last year.
Jerry Rogers' lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in New Orleans. It claims Rogers' arrest was in retaliation for his criticism of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office's handling of an unsolved death case.
"That is public corruption. It is illegal," the suit says, according to a story by The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV.
Rogers is an investigator with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He was arrested in September after sending anonymous emails to relatives of a woman who was fatally shot in 2017. The emails were critical of the investigation. The state Attorney General's Office later said it would not prosecute, after local prosecutors recused themselves.
Nanette Krentel was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in July 2017 inside the burned wreckage of the Lacombe home she shared with her husband, Steve Krentel, who at the time was chief of one of St. Tammany Parish's fire districts.
No one has been arrested in the case.
Among other things, the suit claims Sheriff Randy Smith knew Louisiana's criminal defamation law had been declared unconstitutional when applied to public officials, but still directed that Rogers be arrested under it.
Smith said he's looking forward to defending the case. He called the suit a “politically charged publicity stunt” by people who worked for his predecessor.
When Rogers was arrested, the Sheriff's Office said his emails contained false, defamatory information that undermined the family's confidence — a claim the family disputes — hindering the homicide investigation.