Man sues over fabricated field sobriety test


Former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Ricky Steinert in a picture from the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page that promoted the agency’s participation in the program “Live PD.” Steinert, who resigned under a cloud last year, was chosen to be featured in the show

Ryan Heyd, whose DWI case was thrown out when a friend’s cellphone video contradicted what a deputy claimed a field sobriety test showed, is now suing in federal court over his 2016 arrest, claiming St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith and then-Deputy Ricky Steinert violated his civil rights.

The criminal case against Heyd was dismissed a year ago, after the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office discovered that Steinert fabricated information about Heyd’s field sobriety test.

On the police report, Steinert wrote that Heyd swayed, lost his balance and lost count during the test, but the video showed he did none of those things.

Steinert resigned from the Sheriff’s Office in the wake of an Internal Affairs investigation into the matter. According to the report on the investigation, he admitted cutting and pasting material from prior reports into his report on Heyd’s arrest.

The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, says that Steinert fabricated “facts” to justify the initial traffic stop on Heyd and also to support the claim that he did poorly on the field sobriety test.

Former St. Tammany deputy fired from new agency after falsified DWI report allegations surface

Heyd, who lives in Slidell, was illegally arrested in January 2016 and prosecuted through May 26, 2017, his last trial date, the suit says. His liberty was curtailed during that period because he had to take random drug tests and also was required to install an ignition interlock device on his car. Since he couldn’t afford that, the suit says, he was unable to drive.

The conditions of his bond forbade him from traveling out of state.

“This pretrial detention and curtailment of his liberty and personal freedom occurred as a result of the wrongful institution of legal process,” the suit says, calling it a violation of his right against illegal search and seizure and his right to due process.

His arrest and prosecution, without probable cause, were also malicious under state law, the suit says.

A spokesman for Smith, Capt. Scott Lee, said in an email late Friday that the sheriff had not yet been served with a copy of Heyd’s lawsuit and therefore could not comment on specific allegations in it.

However, he said, “Sheriff Smith would point out that the incident in question occurred under the prior administration of Jack Strain, and that Sheriff Smith has asked the Louisiana attorney general to investigate this matter regarding former deputy Steinert’s conduct.”

When questions first arose about Steinert’s actions, Smith said he did not believe that Steinert had broken the law.

“I’m convinced that this type of police activity has been going on for years,” said Gary Bizal, an attorney for Heyd. “It’s great that there are now video cameras that can catch these guys in their lies.”

But the camera in question belonged to Heyd’s friend. St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office deputies do not have body cameras or dashboard cameras.

Without the video, it would have been Heyd’s word against that of the deputy. And Heyd, a 30-year-old National Guard member, had a previous DWI on his record.

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Among other things, Steinert’s report said that Heyd lost his balance from the starting position three times before beginning a walk-and-turn test and missed four steps in all, stepping off the line.

But the video shows him walking heel to toe, arms at his sides, without wobbling.

His case was not the only one where evidence surfaced that Steinert, a former parish “deputy of the year” who made 117 arrests from 2015 until his departure last year, had fabricated results on field sobriety tests. An arrest report that Steinert wrote about Darren McFarland was identical to Heyd’s in key passages.

McFarland was found guilty of DWI despite blowing 0.063 on the breathalyzer, below the level where intoxication is presumed. Steinert was the only witness for the prosecution.

The DA’s Office later vacated McFarland’s conviction.

Former St. Tammany deputy fired from new agency after falsified DWI report allegations surface

Steinert, who was hired by the Red River Parish Sheriff’s Office after leaving St. Tammany, was fired from that job in March after the agency there learned about the circumstances of his departure from St. Tammany.

In case of St. Tammany deputy accused of lying on DWI, Louisiana AG asked to review

He was not criminally prosecuted for his alleged actions in St. Tammany, but following news coverage of the matter, Smith asked state Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office to review the case.

Man charged with DUI after woman thrown off erratic motorcycle

HAGERSTOWN, Md – A woman was taken to a trauma center with serious injuries Tuesday after she was thrown off an erratic motorcycle and her head hit the ground.

The driver of the motorcycle, Gregory Schoen, 38, was charged with DUI, according to Maryland State Police.

MSP said the Hagerstown station was notified at about 4:49 p.m. Tuesday that a female passenger, later identified as Kaleigh Barr, 29, had been thrown off a Harley Davidson motorcycle on Leitersburg Pike near Longmeadow Road and may have been run over.

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Police learned the man operating the motorcycle, Gregory Schoen, 38, had been seen speeding and passing vehicles at a high rate of speed while traveling south on Leitersburg Pike. A witness said Schoen was in the opposing lane of traffic passing vehicles when a vehicle began approaching him, and he quickly swerved back into his lane.

The maneuver caused Barr to be thrown off the motorcycle, police said. She struck her head on the pavement, causing her helmet to come off. She was not run over, as an initial report stated.

More: Chambersburg woman tried to run over another woman with her own SUV, police say

Barr was seriously injured and flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. She was released on Wednesday, police said.

After he completed field sobriety tests, police arrested Schoen for DUI. A breath test showed Schoen’s blood alcohol content was .10, police said. The state’s attorney may file additional charges against Schoen.

Man pleads guilty in drunk driving wreck that killed NOPD officer

Chau Nguyen pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in connection with a drunk driving wreck that killed New Orleans Police Officer Natasha Hunter in 2016.
Chau Nguyen pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in connection with a drunk driving wreck that killed New Orleans Police Officer Natasha Hunter in 2016.(courtesy of the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office)

A man charged in a drunk driving wreck that killed New Orleans Police Officer Natasha Hunter in 2016 pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide Tuesday (May 29), and will face up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year.

Chau Nguyen, 35, who had been out of jail since posting bond four months after the wreck, was remanded to the sheriff’s office following his plea, according to court records.

Authorities said on June 5, 2016, Nguyen’s four-door Acura sedan hit the back of Hunter’s marked patrol car that was parked on the shoulder of Interstate 10 near the Esplanade Avenue exit. She was investigating a crash when her car was hit around 2:30 a.m., and her vehicle’s emergency lights were flashing.

NOPD Officer Natasha Hunter

Hunter suffered traumatic head injuries in the crash, and died two days later.

Nguyen, who was in pharmacy school at the time of the wreck, also was injured in the crash. Prosecutors said he failed field sobriety tests and admitted to drinking alcohol at a casino prior to driving.

His blood-alcohol concentration measured at 0.16 after the crash, according to the district attorney’s office.

Hunter, 32, joined the New Orleans Police Department in December 2004. She was the mother of a 5-year-old girl.

Ilie Nastase arrested twice in a day, accused of DUI

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Former tennis player Ilie Nastase was arrested twice in the space of six hours in his native Romania on Friday, first on suspicion of driving a car while drunk and refusing to take a breathalyzer test, and then for going through a red light on a scooter.

Nastase had a level of 0.55 mg of alcohol per liter, Bucharest chief police traffic officer Victor Gilceava said, an offense that carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Police initially stopped the 71-year-old Nastase around 4.45 a.m. while he was driving. They said he was visibly drunk. Gilceava said officers had to block Nastase’s vehicle as he failed to stop.

The former U.S. and French Open champion refused to take a breathalyzer and officers removed him from the vehicle and handcuffed him.

He was later released as police opened a criminal investigation against him for drunken driving and failing to take a breathalyzer test.


Nastase admitted that he had drunk beer but claimed police had manhandled him and thrown him to the ground during his first arrest.

The second time he was apprehended, he was filmed mocking police officers and accusing them of acting like the communist-era militia. Nastase got in a police car and placed a police helmet on his head during that second arrest.

Star Used To Getting Special Treatment In Legal Matters

Southern Charm star Thomas Ravenel is currently under investigation by the Charleston Police after he was accused of rape by his children’s former nanny, and he has also been accused of paying off another sexual assault victim $200k after a Tinder date. Lastly, a third woman who dated him says that Ravenel and his current girlfriend have been cyber stalking her, and legal action is in the works.

But Thomas Ravenel continues business as usual and doesn’t seem concerned. The former South Carolina Treasurer has lived in Charleston most of his life and has largely gone unscathed except for the matter of the federal government charges against him in 2007 for purchasing cocaine and sharing it with friends, says CBS. For this, Ravenel spent 10 months in federal prison and then spent the next several years on probation.

Ravenel complained that he was treated unfairly by the feds and that he got the same punishment as his drug dealer. With his political career behind him, he started on the Bravo show Southern Charmwhere he casually joked about his cocaine charges, saying that he was not a drug user, he just “liked the way it smelled.”

Perhaps it’s because Ravenel has always enjoyed a friendly relationship with the Charleston Police, and he trusts them to be fair to him. Back in 2010, there was an ATV accident at Thomas’ Edisto Island home, Brookland Plantation says the Post and Courier. Ravenel called it a “freak accident” when a friend lost his leg when an ATV rolled, pinning Kenneth M. “Marty” Boissoneault’s leg underneath. Ravenel was driving the four-wheeled Kawasaki Mule when it unexpectedly flipped, and neither man was wearing a seatbelt. Ravenel fell on his friend and was unhurt, but Boissoneault was airlifted and taken to the hospital where his leg was amputated.

Ravenel explained that the tires of the ATV must have gotten snared in the grass and that they were only doing approximately 10 miles per hour. Maj. John Clark of the Charleston County Sheriff’s office made a statement for the Post and Courier saying that no drugs or alcohol were involved in the matter, but legal action by Boissoneault claimed that both men were intoxicated at the time of the tragic accident.

But South Carolina Lawyers Weekly tells a different story, as the plaintiff, Kenneth Boissoneault (now deceased) successfully settled with Thomas Ravenel for $2.2 million. Charleston lawyer David Yarborough made what is called a Tyger River demand on Ravenel’s insurance company, Fireman’s Fund Insurance, and rather than go to court on the matter, the parties settled for $2.2 million. Yarborough thought that Ravenel and the insurance company would prefer to settle for the amount listed than risk a much larger amount in court.

Kenneth Boissoneault had already suffered economic losses at the time of the settlement, and the loss of his lower right leg (right tibia-fibula open fractures resulting in a below-the-knee amputation) was going to limit his future earnings, says Yarborough.

“He had a 30 percent whole-person impairment rating and he was going to have to wear a prosthetic device for the rest of his life. In a case of clear liability, which we believed this was, with potential for punitive exposure, the damages clearly could have exceeded the available policy limits.”

But the matter in the case that stood out in the negligence matter according to Yarborough was negligence on the part of Boissoneault and Ravenel, as both men had been drinking at the time of the accident, despite what the Charleston County officials had said.

“There was one problem for the plaintiff: Evidence that he and the defendant had been drinking alcohol on the day of the rollover.”

The plaintiff said that Ravenel had made the turn too suddenly which led to the rollover, but Yarborough said that an impaired driver was the reason for the rollover, even if the plaintiff had also been drinking.

“It cut both ways because the driver, obviously, should not have been operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol. We believed that a jury would or could potentially bring back an actual damages verdict that exceeded the available policy limits as well as a punitive damages verdict that would have put the defendant’s assets at great risk.”

Ravenel agreed to pay the plaintiff’s estate but did not ultimately face any charges from Charleston County Police for operating an ATV while drinking, and all matters were settled out of court.