Aggravated rape trial of former St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain begins

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 4:57 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2021 at 11:02 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Jury selection began Monday (Oct. 25) in the trial of former long-time St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain.

Strain is accused of sexually abusing a number of juveniles before and during his 20-year stint as sheriff.

The accusations sent shockwaves through a community that elected Strain five times as St. Tammany’s top law enforcement officer. Now, District Attorney Warren Montgomery prepares to prosecute his biggest case yet.

Prosecutors have lined up a number of witnesses who accuse Strain of various sex crimes. Among them is expected to be long-time Strain associate Mark Finn.

“Jack Strain was a sick individual and I want the world to know we don’t need him on the streets,” Finn told Fox 8 three years ago.

The 58-year-old Strain was indicted more than two years ago on four counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated incest, and single counts each of sexual battery and indecent behavior with a juvenile, in part due to evidence developed with the help of the group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany.

“Mark Finn came to me and laid out everything in 2018. We had no knowledge of any of this before that occurred,” said Terry King with CCST.

Because of Strain’s long tenure in the St. Tammany law enforcement community, every North Shore judge was recused from this case. The state appointed retired Lafourche Parish Judge Bruce Simpson to preside with jury selection set to begin first thing Monday morning, Oct. 25.

“There could be things that happen that could cause a change of venue. Hopefully that doesn’t happen,” said DA Montgomery.

The former long-time sheriff and his lawyers will have a busy fall and winter. After the state trial, he faces trial on federal charges alleging his involvement in a kickback scheme related to contracts allegedly given to personal friends for a long-running work-release program, which was canceled after several suspicious deaths.

Strain’s state trial has been delayed several times due to COVID.

Jurors are being brought in in groups of 12 and being questioned at length by both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Potential jurors were shown a list of 40 names of people who are expected to testify in the trial to see if they knew any of them.

Jury selection is expected to take two or three days. The trial itself could last two weeks or more.

Strain and his attorneys have repeatedly declined comment.

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