Crime

‘I played dead’ | Graphic account of alleged sexual assault by Jack Strain begins victim testimony on day 4 of trial

WWL-TV reporters Erika Ferrando and Sam Winstrom are at the Covington Courthouse and will provide updates throughout the day.

COVINGTON, La. — Attorney gave conflicting images of former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain as his sex crimes trial kicked off with opening statements. Witness testimony continues on Thursday. 

Prosecutors plan to have more than 30 witnesses testify to make his case, including a fifth alleged victim not included in the charges against Strain.

WWL-TV reporters Erika Ferrando and Sam Winstrom are at the Covington Courthouse and will provide updates throughout the day on the latest proceedings of the trial. 

Ed. Note: WWL-TV is not naming sexual abuse victims testifying in this case due to the nature of the alleged crimes. 

Live Updates:

Defense attorney Billy Gibbens began cross-examination, questioning the first alleged victim to take the witness stand.

Gibbens focused on the witness’ relationship with Strain and his continuing friendship with him as they grew up.

He brought out photos of them together and text message conversations between the two men, questioning why someone who claims they were brutally raped by Jack Strain as a child would be such close friends with him — even sending him photos of his grandchildren and going on family vacations with him.

Cross-examination will continue after a brief recess.

‘I played dead’ | Graphic account of alleged sexual assault by Strain begins victim testimony

The first of four victims of the alleged sexual abuse committed by former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain took the stand today, sharing graphic detail on the abuse he says he suffered and why he stayed quiet for so long.

“My whole life has been spent trying to please him, but not anymore,” he said.

Assistant District Attorney Collin Sims began his questioning by establishing the connection between the witness and Strain. Their relationship started when the witness was 10-years-old and Strain was 16. According to the witness’ testimony, he worked with Jack Strain at the Strain family’s fireworks stands during the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve firework seasons. At night, the two boys would be locked inside the stands to protect the inventory. That’s where the witness says the abuse began.

According to the witness, Strain would touch the witness’ genitals until they were erect, then have the child penetrate him. This happened several times during the fireworks seasons in 1979 and 1980, the alleged victim testified.

“I played dead. I acted like I was asleep,” the witness said through tears. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

As the prosecution asked the witness to describe those encounters in more detail, the witness broke down and challenged Strain directly.

“Do you remember it?” He asked, standing from his chair and looking straight at Strain. “He should stand up and admit it! He’s a coward!”

The judge called a brief recess to restore order and allow the witness to calm down.

When asked why the alleged victim didn’t tell anyone, he told the jury that not only was he too embarrassed, but he needed the money from the fireworks job. According to the witness, he grew up very poor and the money he’d make working the fireworks stand would pay for his school clothes.

Also, after losing his father at a young age, Strain stood in as a sort of older brother and father figure. The future St. Tammany Parish Sheriff would take the witness hunting and fishing and even taught him how to drive.

“It’s off the wall crazy, but to this day, I love him,” the witness said.

Sexual abuse victim claims family’s reliance on Strain kept him quiet

12:24 PM: The prosecution finished questioning their second witness against former St. Tammany Parish Jack Strain just before lunch Thursday.

The witness, the first of Strain’s alleged victims to testify, was often emotional as he described the alleged abuse he suffered at the hands of Strain over the course of his life in graphic detail.

The witness also described his family’s financial reliance on the Strains, which he says is the main reason he stayed silent for so long.

Defense attorney Billy Gibbens will cross-examine the witness starting at 1:30 p.m.

Sexual abuse victim names Strain as abuser in continued testimony

The first alleged victim to testify in the Jack Strain sex crimes trial continued after an emotional outburst caused the judge to call a brief recess.

The witness went into graphic detail about his claims that Strain sexually abused him as a child and even as an adult.

According to the witness, he kept Strain’s abuse a secret due to his and his family’s financial reliance on the Strains.

“My whole life has been spent trying to please him, but not anymore,” he said.

The alleged victim described Strain as “almost an older brother, maybe even a dad,” to him. That’s a point assistant district attorney Collin Sims made during his opening statement Wednesday. Sims said that Strain abused his relationship with his alleged victims to ensure their silence.

The trial will resume after a 15-minute recess.

Court goes into recess after emotional testimony

9:42 AM: The first victim in the Jack Strain sex crime trial took the stand this morning.

The victim claims the former st Tammany parish sheriff raped him when he was 10-years-old and Strain was 16.

During his emotional testimony, the witness testified that Strain was like an older brother to him and that “in a strange way” he still sees him as family.

The judge called a 10-minute recess as the witness was overcome with emotion while describing his alleged rape in graphic detail and addressing Strain directly.

“Do you remember it?” He asked. “He should stand up and admit it. He’s a coward.”

Testimony will continue after the 10-minute recess.

Case Background:

Strain faces 4 counts of aggravated rape, 2 counts of aggravated incest, indecent behavior with a juvenile, and sexual battery.

The allegations against the former sheriff were unearthed during an investigation into a work-release program under his direction during his time as sheriff.

Strain pleaded not guilty to the alleged incidents that happened as far back as 1975 when Strain was a teenager. The most recent allegations are from the early 2000s when Strain was serving as sheriff.

Strain has been free on bond since his arrest in June 2019 and now faces life in prison if convicted.

The trial will take place at the 22nd Judicial Courthouse in Covington under retired Lafourche Parish Judge Bruce Simpson. Every other Northshore judge was recused from the case.

The state trial is expected to last up to two weeks but Strain’s time in court won’t be over.

After this trial, he’s set to face trial in federal court this December for charges related to an alleged kickback scheme at a work release program during his time as sheriff.

Written by Erika Ferrando (WWL), Sam Winstrom

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