Hemelt: What about 120 pounds of drugs that were found?

Published 12:03 am Saturday, April 18, 2015

What about all the drugs? That was the question I heard most often when someone asked me about last week’s arrest of former St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Cody Malkiewicz.

The former deputy was arrested April 8, according to Sheriff Mike Tregre, booked with perjury that stemmed from false courtroom testimony provided Oct. 9 in Edgard.

Tregre said St. John District Attorney investigators met Feb. 3 with Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs investigators and shared details of the suspected perjury.

Malkiewicz was fired from his position with the Sheriff’s Office shortly thereafter.

Malkiewicz had been the central law-enforcement figure in a July 2014 bust on I-10 that netted 120 pounds of marijuana and nearly $18,000 in cash, plus the arrests of Adam Landry and Miranda Davis.

A few months after the bust at a preliminary hearing, Malkiewicz testified as to the reason why he pulled Landry over, leading to the massive pot discovery.

Tregre said Malkiewicz’s radio traffic and phone conversations concerning the reason he pulled Landry over were “obviously inconsistent” with his courtroom testimony.

Landry’s defense attorney, David Belfield III, described the whole thing as a “big, fabricated lie.”

“It was a tip (law enforcement) got, and they were going to stop this car,” Belfield said. “There was no legal reason to stop this car, so he made up some stuff to get the stop.”

Last summer, the investigation of the couple moved to their home in Slidell, where Tregre said St. Tammany Parish officers found 3.9 pounds of heroin and a small amount of marijuana.

Belfield and Tregre said St. John Parish District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut threw out the local cases against Landry and Davis.

Belfield said his clients still face charges in St. Tammany Parish.

That’s where the truly unfortunate part for St. John residents comes into play. None of the parties disputes drugs were found locally.

At the time, authorities said they recovered money hidden in canisters of Kool-Aid and other grocery item canisters that were fashioned to unscrew at the bottom to hide money. The canisters were placed inside of grocery bags, along with other legitimate groceries, so the couple could carry drugs and money to and from their car without being detected.

Despite all the contraband, Landry’s defense attorney crystallized the issue when talking about the drugs with a L’OBSERVATEUR reporter.

“They found drugs in the car; that’s not the issue,” Belfield said. “That’s what the news reporters and the people misconstrue about defense lawyers in criminal cases. In criminal cases, if you want to take a person’s freedom, then you have to do it the right way. You have to follow the rules.

“If you follow the rules, then the courts are going to allow you to take away a person’s freedom, put them in jail (and) possibly in some cases take their life. In order to do that, you have got to follow the law. So you have my client on trial for breaking the law, when you in turn are breaking the law and trying to prosecute him. That’s not what America is about. If you don’t dot the ‘I’s and you don’t cross the ‘T’s, if you don’t do it correctly, then the courts say that you can’t go any further.”

It’s a tough pill for many to swallow, especially someone who’s not a fan of hearing about a couple riding through the roadways of St. John Parish, three children in tow, and sitting on enough marijuana and cash to give the Grateful Dead a weekend they’d never forget. So a special “thank you” goes out to law enforcement officers who take the time to make proper arrests, give truthful and accurate testimony in court and impact positive change with their work through the legal system.

When it comes to Malkiewicz, just because he was arrested for perjury doesn’t mean he is guilty of it.

Take it from all those involved in this case, rushing to judgment without taking the proper steps can certainly lead to an unexpected and unwanted outcome.

Stephen Hemelt is general manager and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.