Lawsuit says Sheriff Texted to Stop Investigation Against Deputy who Stole Drugs

Ben Keller

A former deputy says Louisiana sheriff fired him for refusing to stonewall an investigation against a fellow deputy.

A former Louisiana deputy, who was fired for refusing to keep a lid on information about a fellow deputy accused of stealing drugs from people at traffic stops and giving them to his addicted girlfriend, says he has proof the sheriff tried to keep him quiet.

St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith claims when his former chief deputy Fred Oswald left the department in July that he had retired at Smith's request.

"That's a lie," Oswald said.

"I was fired."

In January, Oswald filed a whistleblower lawsuit in the 22nd Judicial District Attorney's Officer claiming the sheriff retaliated against him by firing him over refusing to stonewall the DA's case against deputy Kenneth Szalajeski, the deputy accused of stealing drugs during traffic stops and giving them to his girlfriend.

"Petitioner was terminated by defendant Smith in retaliation for his refusal to participate in defendant Smith's illegal practices," the suit says.

The sheriff's attorney argued the original petition was too vague and should be thrown out.

In an amended petition filed Monday, Oswald specifically alleges Sheriff Smith texted him in July, "Please stop with the Szalajeski case. I have talked to Warren and we are done on our part.”

Oswald claims Sheriff Smith insisted the investigation be handled internally because "the timing was bad" on turning it over to the DA.

"Hold up," Smith ordered Oswald.

Despite asking for it multiple times, Oswald said the Montgomery's Criminal Division leader told him the DA's Office still hadn't received the entire internal affairs file on Szalajeski.

Oswald met with deputies tied to Szalejeski's investigation in July 2017 and told them to turn the entire case over to the DA's office.

"30-40 minutes after they left is when [Sheriff Smith] summoned me in his office and said I need you to resign or retire,” Oswald says.

The original petition filed by Oswald states he was " terminated by defendant Smith in retaliation for his refusal to participate in defendant Smith's illegal activities."

The original lawsuit didn't include the deputy in the case he was trying to turn over for investigation, the amended petition identified Szalajeski.

Kenneth Szalejeski, 35, was indicted on two counts of malfeasance and two counts of distribution of marijuana on October 27, 2017.

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