Lutcher police chief faces drug charges
He's accused of cocaine, crack, pill sales
Thursday, August 18, 2005
By John-John Williams IV and Allen Powell II
River Parishes bureau
Corey Pittman, the youngest police chief ever in Lutcher, went to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office on Wednesday morning under the pretense that he would learn more about a pending arrest in his jurisdiction.
Little did he know that he was about to be arrested.
Pittman, 29, was booked with five charges of distributing controlled substances. Authorities say he sold cocaine, crack cocaine and pain pills to an undercover operative during a three-month period.
Authorities with the Drug Enforcement Administration say they were approached earlier this year with a tip from the St. Charles Sheriff's Office that Pittman was dealing drugs. After three months in which four undercover sales were allegedly made with Pittman, authorities arrested him just after 9 a.m.
"He was shocked," said William Renton, special agent in charge at the DEA. "I believe after a while he was repentant in some regards. He understands he's in serious trouble."
Pittman was booked with three counts of distributing crack, one count of distributing cocaine and one count of distributing hydrocodone, an addictive pain medication.
"I don't recall an elected public official distributing drugs like a common thug," Renton said. "Never someone that headed an agency."
Pittman made his initial appearance in front of a magistrate judge Wednesday. It is unknown where Pittman will be held.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said prosecutors will request that Pittman be held without bond.
Through the course of the three-month period beginning in June, Pittman sold five ounces of crack, one once of cocaine hydrochloride and 40 tablets of hydrocodone for $5,200, authorities said. Pittman apparently made no attempt to hide his law enforcement occupation, authorities said.
During one of the drug sales, Pittman wore a shirt that had his job title printed on it, authorities said. The most recent sale allegedly took place last Friday at a gas station in Reserve in which authorities say Pittman gave an undercover operative about 35 grams of cocaine in exchange for $900. In another transaction, authorities said, Pittman gave an operative a bottle of 40 hydrocodone pills wrapped in a green wash cloth in exchange for $2,000. The prescription bottle had Pittman's name on it, authorities said.
One late-night transaction took place in front of the Garyville-Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School, authorities said.
Authorities say all the transactions were videotaped. Wednesday, officials seized a 1994 Acura used during a drug deal, financial records and other papers at Pittman's home in Lutcher, Renton said. Pittman's wife was present during the seizure and was cooperative, he added.
Pittman, who became Lutcher's first African-American elected sheriff in October 2002, has shaken and disappointed the small community of 3,632 people, according to Mayor Troas Poche.
"We're totally shocked," Poche said from his Lutcher office Wednesday afternoon. "He campaigned that he would be against drugs. Come to find out, he didn't practice what he preached. As an elected official, people looked up to him as a role model."
Genevia Pittman, Corey Pittman's mother, said she didn't want to talk about the charges against her son because she doesn't have enough information. She said she is depending on her faith in God to bring her through this situation. Several family members assembled outside of Pittman's home echoed that sentiment.
"I love my son. I can't say what my son would have done or what he wouldn't have done because he's just a man," Pittman said. "Right now, I'm praying."
The news of Pittman's arrest shocked many Lutcher residents, most of whom said the accusations didn't seem to fit the well-mannered man they remembered from his childhood and his political campaign three years ago. Residents near his mother's home said Pittman may have gotten into some mischief as a child, but never anything serious.
But, Lionel J. Kirklin, who lives across the street from Pittman's mother, said Pittman grew up like a member of his family, and he often spoke to him after he was elected. Recently, Pittman had been concerned with budget problems in his four-officer department and the possibility of St. James Parish assuming control over Lutcher's Police Department, he said. Pittman had even discussed resigning, but Kirklin said he told him he had to persevere.
Kirklin was reluctant to believe that the opinionated and outspoken young man that grew up alongside his own son might have abused his public office. He said that if Pittman is acquitted, he would have no problem voting for him again.
But, some residents said Pittman's alleged abuse of power is something they won't easily forget. Connie Martin said Pittman's arrest was discussed by most of the lunch crowd at Nobile's Restaurant on Main Street where she works as a waitress.
Although Martin said that she did not vote for Pittman, she still feels betrayed by him.
"We're very surprised and disappointed," Martin said. "We elected him to protect and serve and try to get rid of the drugs, and he turned around and does the same thing we're trying to get rid of."
Special election ahead?
Poche said he planned to meet with the city attorney to determine if it is legal for him to become acting police chief and if a special election is needed to find a permanent replacement.
Generally, elected officials can remain in public office unless they are found guilty of felony charges.
"You can't be a drug dealer and a chief of police," Poche said. "I really thought he was doing a good job. He's a young guy. I thought he could relate to the kids. He was a good cop. I guess he was immature."
St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin said Pittman worked for him as a deputy for five years, beginning in the late 1990s. "I can't say that he was a bad employee,"' Martin said. "He did his job. I don't recall us having any issues."
Martin said there was talk about Pittman being involved in illegal activities. "I had no proof that anything like this was going on when he worked here," Martin said. "I would have arrested him a long time ago if we did."
Pittman admitted in a newspaper article in March 2003 that he had sold drugs in the past.
"It was disappointing then. but you had to give him the benefit of the doubt," Martin said.
Authorities refused to say whether any additional arrests will be made.
"This case is nothing more than a fox getting into the hen house,"' said Jim Bernazzani, special agent in charge of the FBI. "This is the most despicable you can possibly be. You can't get much worse."
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John-John Williams IV can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (985)-652-0958. Allen Powell II can be reached at email@example.com or (985) 652-0952.
I wonder if I could have gotten a sign off on a form four from him.
Scum bag, his first clue should have been the enormus over market price sold the drugs. Dumbass.