11/06/2005

Men admit attacking trooper who investigated indicted sheriff

The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La.- Two men with ties to an indicted sheriff pleaded guilty to witness tampering and admitted beating up and biting a state trooper as payback for his role in the investigation.

Alton Hoyt McNabb II, 21, and Cori Leigh Clark, 24, both of Greensburg, could each get up to a year in prison.

The two were accused of attacking Sgt. Dennis Stewart after St. Helena Parish Sheriff Ronald "Gun" Ficklin was indicted on charges alleging he used jail inmates to fix stolen cars for sale at a Greensburg chop shop.

Clark is Ficklin's son-in-law, and McNabb is the son of Ficklin's girlfriend.

No sentencing date has been set. Both men are expected to testify against Ficklin.

Stewart was hit on the head from behind and repeatedly punched late July 30 at a nightclub. The account accompanying the guilty pleas says McNabb and Clark admited they punched Stewart repeatedly and that one of them _ the statement does not say which _ bit him in the chest.

According to the statement, the two attacked Stewart in retaliation for investigating Ficklin and to try to keep him from helping prosecutors.

Stewart had been involved in the investigation since 2003 and had helped arrest Ficklin, who became the third consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriff to be indicted.

The investigation began after a convicted felon who owned B&D Auto Sales was caught in a stolen pickup truck containing Ficklin's badge. The convicted felon and two other men have pleaded guilty in the chop-shop case.

The charges against Ficklin include conspiracy, trafficking in motor vehicles with removed or altered vehicle identification numbers, and mail fraud. His attorney Frank Holthaus has said he advised Ficklin not to comment on the charges.

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