Baton Rouge, LA – Yesterday, a jury in New Orleans took less than two hours before returning guilty verdicts on all seven counts against longtime Edwards family friend and disgraced former DEA Agent Chad Scott. The convictions included perjury, obstruction of justice and falsification of government records, all stemming from his actions leading a drug task force covering Edwards family-controlled Tangipahoa Parish.
Records obtained by The Advocate show the DEA and FBI received complaints beginning more than a decade ago that Scott routinely misused confidential sources and disregarded DEA policies. Unfortunately, he was not stripped of his badge until early last year, when the U.S. Justice Department launched a sprawling inquiry into the New Orleans-based task force, which has been accused of shaking down suspects, dealing drugs and pocketing cash during drug raids.
While the Edwards family has played down their connections to the DEA task force, text messages and emails obtained by The Advocate show that Sheriff Daniel Edwards has had a close relationship with Scott, an agent of 17 years who remains at the center of the misconduct investigation.
Their friendship began even before Edwards was elected sheriff in 2003, when Edwards was an assistant district attorney who prosecuted many drug cases which Scott investigated. But the pair had drawn even closer in recent years, swapping emails and text messages and sharing meals.
Among other allegations, the whistleblower reported to the DEA in late 2003 that Scott had maintained a "stash room" at a hotel in Hammond that he used to store illegal drugs and cash, and that Scott had sold ecstasy in college, the law enforcement officials said.
The agent also expressed concern in 2004 that DEA management regularly allowed Scott to circumvent policy because of the volume of drug cases he generated, and that the DEA had been turning a blind eye to corrupt law enforcement in Tangipahoa Parish, according to internal documents reviewed by the newspaper.
That same year, one of Scott's longtime informants told the DEA he had been provided 100 pounds of marijuana and two kilograms of cocaine by another former DEA task force member and a Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office deputy, according to DEA records.
"It was well known that Scott led what many considered to be local investigations, all with the blessing and approval of the sheriff," said a law enforcement official who has known both men for more than a decade. "Nobody's going to dispute that."
Edwards and Scott became even closer following Edwards' election as sheriff, exchanging frequent emails and text messages and sharing meals. On several occasions, Edwards sent drafts of press releases to Scott and asked him to review them and offer feedback.
Many members of the task force, including Scott, Johnny Domingue and Karl E. Newman, began their careers with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office, and Scott had a close working relationship with Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards.
According to NOLA.com, the investigation also has placed Governor John Bel Edwards in an unenviable position, though by no means an unprecedented one for a high Louisiana officeholder. Shortly after John Bel Edwards moved into the Governor’s Mansion, the FBI raided his brother Daniel’s Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Department. "We are conducting multiple court authorized actions. The investigations are ongoing. We have no further comment at this time," said Craig Betbeze, public information officer for the FBI New Orleans’ office.
The materials taken by federal agents included a computer from the office of Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards.
"It's very unusual for the FBI to raid the office of a sitting governor's brother, irrespective of whether he's sheriff," one senior law enforcement official said.
Three years ago, John Bel Edwards told reporters, "Without any fear of contradiction or ever being proven wrong, I will tell you now, he did not engage in anything improper, much less illegal. I have all the confidence in the world in that, and I think that time will bear that out."
With these convictions, the pressure on Chad Scott to flip on the Edwards family is higher than it has ever been, and the Edwards brothers should be feeling a little less confident today.
Of course, this isn’t unusual for the Edwards family. Their father, Frank Edwards Jr., was the subject of a federal investigation while running for reelection. A Special Agent was assigned to an investigation of alleged violations of a combination of federal gun, liquor and gambling laws in Tangipahoa Parish pursuant to orders from the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Federal investigations are just one of the Edwards “Family Traditions” conveniently left out of the TV commercial.