Criminal Justice

Deputy who punched girlfriend in face has been fired; not the first encounter with law

By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer |

An Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy who was fired recently after admitting he punched his girlfriend in the face had other brushes with the law before he was hired less than a year ago, according to records and interviews with an alleged statutory rape victim’s mother.

It’s unclear whether Sheriff Marlin Gusman knew the extent of the Baton Rouge rape accusation involving Stephen Thomas before Thomas was promoted to full deputy in July 2010. The mother of the girl – who was 14 when she had Thomas’ child – said she spoke with Gusman about the incident when Thomas was still a recruit, at least eight months before his promotion.

Stephen Thomas, who until recently went by the moniker “Afistfullof Stephen Thomas” on Facebook.

Through a spokesman, Gusman acknowledged the conversation with the mother. The sheriff encouraged her to pursue the matter with Baton Rouge police, where the alleged rape took place, spokesman Marc Ehrhardt said.

The mother had already done just that months earlier, a Baton Rouge Police spokesman said, but the daughter declined to press charges. Without a complainant, they dropped the matter, Cpl. L’Jean Mckneely said Tuesday.

Despite the conversation Gusman had with the mother, Ehrhardt said it’s not the Sheriff’s Office’s role to investigate rape allegations from Baton Rouge.

That Thomas is the father of the now-4-year-old is barely in question. The girl’s mother, Adele Charles, provided The Lens with a copy of a paternity test from early last year, saying he was the father with 99.99 percent certainty.

The state’s Office of Child and Family Services also shows that Thomas is responsible for making child support payments to Charles, who is the child’s custodian. Records show that as of May 17, Thomas was $9,600 behind on his payments.

Ehrhardt said the Sheriff’s Office was never asked by the state to garnishee Thomas’ paycheck to satisfy his debt, though they certainly would have complied with such a legal order.

The alleged rape was considered closed by the Baton Rouge police when the Sheriff’s Office ran a background check on Stephen Thomas for outstanding warrants and the like. That review came up empty in October 2009, save for a minor traffic ticket, which Thomas then paid, according to records provided by Ehrhardt.

Ehrhardt said any unresolved matter would have prevented Thomas’ promotion.

Gusman’s office was fully aware of a more recent incident – a 2009 allegation that he and another ex-girlfriend, who is also a deputy, were accused of beating the mother of his child – because the Sheriff’s Office helped investigate the incident. However, those charges were eventually dropped in June 2010, and Gusman promoted Thomas the next month.

Thomas was not suspended because of those 2009 accusations because he was issued a summons, rather than being arrested, Ehrhardt said.

Despite a public-records request from The Lens, Ehrhardt did not provide a copy of the Sheriff’s Office operations manual in the legally allotted time. Presumably, the manual spells out the differing protocols for an employee being sent to court with a summons, as opposed to those who are arrested.

The deputy’s tenure ended in the past month after he was arrested in March on the latest battery charges. Gusman sustained the office’s internal disciplinary charges and fired Thomas for violations of the sheriff’s policies on “professionalism” and “adherence to law,” documents show.

In that incident, Thomas is accused of punching his girlfriend in the face and causing her to break her ankle on March 23. The pair scuffled after she wouldn’t tell Thomas the details of her conversation with the Sheriff’s Office internal-affairs investigators. They were investigating a complaint from Thomas that others were spreading rumors about him having sexual intercourse with a male ex-inmate, records show.

After interviewing the woman in the emergency room, sheriff’s officials accompanied New Orleans police officers to the jail, where Thomas was on duty, and arrested him.

He was immediately suspended without pay, his deputy’s commission was revoked and his weapon confiscated, records show. An internal hearing on April 24 resulted in a recommendation of termination.

Thomas is scheduled to appear in court on June 24 on charges related to that incident.

Thomas was unreachable for comment. The victim in the 2009 incident, the mother of Thomas’ child, declined comment. Likewise, the woman whom Thomas admitted to punching – who is also a Sheriff’s Office deputy – declined to comment.

During the internal affairs investigation, she told officers that she didn’t want to say anything that might get Thomas fired, records show.

The records also show that Thomas, who is 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, said he punched her first because he thought she would try to hit him.

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  • Gloria Samuels

    Mr. Thomas is upset that rumors are going on about him. I guess he is hurt. However, his hurt cannot begin to compare to the hurt that has been inflicted upon the women in this story.

    Let’s stay on top of this case!!! Citizens cannot have this type of law enforcement personnel being out on the street. Please set an example.

  • Gaynell Rome

    I think it’s awful that this individual is getting away with a slap on the wrist. I don’t know S. Thomas, but personally know Ms. Charles and find her to be a respectful and trustworthy individual. I believe that her daughter is fearful of retaliation from Mr. Thomas and this is her reasons for declining to comment on the previous incidents. The law is to serve and protect the innocent, therfore if he admitted to assulting her, why is it that he wasn’t held in jail for assult and battery? There need to be a more through investigation into this person’s background. I bet you will find more women who has suffered at the hands of this man.

  • LA Howard

    I don’t know which disgusts me more: the allegations or the cover-up. “…it’s not the Sheriff’s Office’s role to investigate rape allegations from Baton Rouge.” Really. So does that mean that if I were charged, but not found guilty (outside of his jurisdiction), I could work for the Sheriff’s Office! In the wake of the bad images that continue to surface I would think that they would not want to further tarnish the image of Law Enforcement in the area. We hear far too often, the tale of the battered woman, should have said something before it was too late. She did! Her mother did! The other sheriff covered her abuse by the hand of this same individual. When are the lies going to stop?

  • Angry Reader

    This is a joke!!! Statutory rape and beating women…And these are proven facts…not allegations. And this guy is an officer of the law!?!? And getting promotions after offenses!!! This is why law enforcement in New Orleans will always have a bad rep. This has to stop. This guy needs to be locked!!!

  • Cynthia S. Wingate

    This is unbelievable, to do this to this young
    lady at 14 years old is unthinkable. The system
    has failed this family by rewarding this young
    man in light of what he did and continued to do.
    Please don’t let this deed go unpunished. Would
    he want his mother or sister (if he has one)to
    be beat and violated.To represent the law with
    the things he does is not right.

  • Really, Sheriff’s Department?

    Sometimes it really makes me wonder about these “background checks” that employers perform. If someone was accused of a rape violation, that would be a red flag to me. I would want to know the extent of the situation, whether its in Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, or Uganda. Rape is rape. Its nice to know that criminals are allowed to “protect” us when we actually need protection from them. So again I say, “really sheriff’s department?” What’s next, hiring repeated male sex offenders to work in the women’s unit of lock up. With the department’s hiring skills, it would not surprise me if its already happened. Nice job N.O. Sheriff’s HR department, 4 stars on a job well done. And yes I’m being sarcastic.

  • It concerns me that our judicial system is so far behind right along with our school systems in New Orleans. There’s enough evidence presented that the State of Louisiana should have picked up this case and did a more aggressive investigation. Laws need to be change to protect the victims who are enduring such senseless and ignorant crimes. If we donot stand up for change and protection, these criminals are out smarting the judicial system, learning the rules using it’s own laws against the courts and gaining slap on the wrist for their actions. Many jobs are over looking criminal background records to fill positions and fail to protect citizens while hiring those who are not worthy of working at these jobs. The trust of the citizens of New Orleans will never be restored until change is formulated and crafted at it’s finest and this starts with our judicial systems, lawyers, judges, police, & state appointed officials learn to work together. New Orleans is the city that never sleeps, protection is poor, people are afraid to come forward, police force needs restoration (all of them), courts need to wake up and get it together. A concerned citizen and will always be…pray without ceasing!!!!!

  • lester

    This person should have been locked up i have a little girl myself and trust me if it would have been my child and my wife had went through what this mother have.That would have been it for him if he din’t have the lord in his life he sure would be calling on him you rest to sure that. if it was up to me.