St. Tammany gun shakedown

Under current federal scrutiny, a Louisiana sheriff shifts his position after spending years defending two lawsuits that request the return of items seized at the residence of a former deputy.

“I’m not surprised that, two days after I was served with a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury on February 28, the sheriff’s office now claims we can have our son’s shotgun back,” said the former St. Tammany Parish deputy, Norman J. Manton, Jr.

Sherrie Buras-Manton, his wife, and plaintiff in the action against St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Rodney “Jack” Strain and other St. Tammany Parish deputies, told Human Events that when she and her husband met with Strain in 2008, after her husband was released from jail and all charges were dropped, she requested that her personal items be returned.

“None of the personal items seized were returned, and no one ever gave us a reason why,” she said. “We filed papers in federal court requesting those items and alleging that our First and Second Amendment rights were violated.”

“One of the items was a Remington 870 Youth Model 20 Gauge Shotgun with the initials ‘DJM’ that belonged to my then 18-year old son David J. Manton,” she said.  Her son David died in 2010 in a freak gun accident.

Also seized as a result of a search warrant, were religious items to include a Bible, Missal (used to celebrate Catholic Mass), David’s rosary beads, and various Catholic medals and prayer cards, she said.

“David’s rosary beads were a first Holy Communion gift from my husband and me when he was a young boy.  He had the rosary beads hung on his shot gun in a locked closet in his bedroom,” Buras-Manton said.

“We have been demanding the return of our Bible, David’s rosary beads and his shotgun for close to five years,” she said. “Since my son is deceased, each memory of him is all we have left.”

“The Sheriff’s office has the Remington 20 Gauge Shotgun in its possession,” said Charles M. “Chuck” Hughes Jr., attorney for Strain. “We have always had it.  They [Mr. and Mrs. Manton] have always known that we have it, but they chose to ignore it.”

When asked whether the sheriff’s office possesses any of the other items listed in the federal complaint, Hughes told Human Events that the only item seized from the Manton home was the shot gun.

“That’s a lie,” said Manton.  “I was told by the evidence custodian, that high ranking members of the sheriff’s office told him to hide the items, which included the religious materials and the shot gun.”
“I was also told by a senior deputy that my items were locked-up,” he said.

Hughes said the shot gun was seized because Manton is a convicted felon and was in violation of probation.

Attorney for Buras-Manton in the federal action, Daniel G. Abel said, “Manton could not be in violation of his probation because Louisiana statute and federal law outlines which crimes limit the right of a person to keep and bear arms.  The crime of construction malfeasance is not one of them. ”

“The shot gun was not even owned by Manton.  The owner of the shot gun was his son David.  The gun was in David’s room, in a locked closet, when authorities removed it,” he said.

“The entire search and seizure of Manton’s home and subsequent arrest was initiated to cover-up underlying criminal activity at the hands of the sheriff’s office,” he said.

“St. Tammany Parish Sheriff attempted to blame Manton for the death or disappearance of Albert Bloch,” he said.  “Bloch’s death or disappearance in 2007 is the subject of an ongoing investigation by federal authorities, in which Manton has been called to testify before a grand jury as a victim of departmental misconduct, not a suspect.”

Abel said that until recently the Sheriff’s office claimed they seized the religious items because they thought the items belonged to Bloch.  “It is outrageous for them to now claim they did not seize them at all.”

“Of course the sheriff’s office has the shot gun, who else would have it?” said Richard Feldman, president of Rindge, N.H.-based Independent Firearm Owners Association, who is an attorney and co-plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s office.

“The Sheriff’s attorneys went through all this costly litigation yet only now admits to having the shotgun?  Why didn’t they say it in their Reply papers?” he asked.  “The seized shot gun has not been made available to us, although we have tried to obtain it on numerous occasions.”

Feldman says that in addition to the current FBI investigation, the Sheriff’s office is under heightened scrutiny with an ATFE investigation underway into a claim that the St. Tammany sheriff’s office has an ongoing and seemingly lucrative business in the sale of illegally confiscated firearms in violation of the Gun Control Act of 1968.

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