SGI 'skinny dipping' led to FBI agent's arrest

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A “skinny dipping” incident on St. George Island two summers ago figures into a multi-state, multi-jurisdictional case being made against a former FBI supervisory special agent on charges of indecent exposure in front of juveniles.

In an Aug. 22 news release, Sheriff AJ Smith said a warrant for the arrest of David Lee Harris, 51, of Prairieville, Louisiana. who is being held on related charges in Ascension Parish, Louisiana,, concerned an allegation of indecent exposure on the island in 2019, and a subsequent investigation of a complaint made to the sheriff’s office in Feb. 2021.

The release said that during the investigation, Lt. Baron Cortopassi learned Harris vacationed with family and friends on the island in July 2019, and that during this time, was alleged to have exposed his genitalia in a lewd and lascivious manner to a then 14-year-old female.

ABC-affiliate KLTV, in Tyler, Texas, reports that a Smith County, Texas affidavit alleges Harris exposed himself to multiple children and molested one child in a period from 2018 to 2019, and that the alleged crimes took place in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.

In Smith County, Harris has been charged with third-degree felony indecent exposure.

KLTV reports the affidavit was obtained by a Texas Ranger, who was contacted by a senior special agent with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General who asked for help on an alleged indecency with a child case.

The senior special agent with the OIG’s office told the Ranger that the report had been received concurrently by the DOJOIG and the U.S. Department of the Army because Harris was employed by both the FBI and the U.S. Army at the time of the alleged offenses.

A story by WAFB, a television station in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said Harris is assigned to the FBI field office in New Orleans, and had recently been appointed to head up a regional division of the FBI that investigates online crimes against children, including child pornography.

KLTV said the Army report described an alleged incident at a rental home in St. George Island, in 2019 when Harris’ family and another family were vacationing. It is then, said the report, he allegedly took off all his clothes at a pool party and started swimming in full view of two juveniles.

When Harris was confronted about it, he allegedly apologized and blamed his actions on being drunk, the television station reported.

In his story for KLTV, Gary Bass wrote the man who reported the “skinny dipping” incident told authorities he found a letter from his wife addressed to someone he believes is Harris. In it, the letter talked about the sexual relationship they had while they were married to other people, read the KLTV story.

The story says that in the affidavit, the man’s wife, in the letter, said Harris exposed himself in front of two juveniles.

This information led Cortopassi to interview the woman alleged to have had an affair with Harris. She told the investigator she believed Harris exposed himself to her juvenile daughter on multiple occasions, both at her home in Tyler and at Harris’ home in Louisiana.

According to the affidavit, the woman described another “skinny dipping” incident that occurred at her pool in Tyler in July 2018 when her daughter was 13. During the interview with Cortopassi, the woman said the victim on St. George Island was actually one of her daughter’s friends who had been vacationing with them, according to KLTV.

On February 26, the Texas Ranger and the DOJOIG senior special agent observed a forensic interview with the woman’s juvenile daughter at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County. During the interview, the girl confirmed Harris had exposed himself to her on St. George Island, the affidavit stated. She also allegedly said Harris exposed himself to her on past occasions and had touched her inappropriately, according to KLTV.

The victim said Harris disrobed and swam in their pool in Tyler in full view of her. She also described an incident when she wasn’t feeling well and went to lie down, and while she was lying under a blanket, Harris allegedly undressed from the waist down, exposed himself to her, and laid down on top of her.

According to the affidavit, the girl yelled out for Harris’ wife, who was in the kitchen at the time of the incident, and he allegedly got off of her and put his clothes back on, according to the KLTV story.

The girl told the forensic interviewer that Harris was “drunk most of the time” and that she believes he was intoxicated at the time of the incident, the TV station report.

The KLTV story went on to report that the affidavit also included a sampling of text messages to and from Harris’ FBI-issued cell phone that confirmed many of the allegations about his indecent exposure incidents and described his attraction to teenage girls.

Harris, a West Point graduate, is a full colonel in the US Army reserves, according to the release from the Franklin County sheriff’s office.

He now faces a string of criminal charges — including indecency with a child, crimes against nature and sexual battery. He was arrested earlier this summer in Ascension Parish, where a judge declared him a “threat to the public at large” and ordered him held without bond.

Besides Ascension Parish, Harris has outstanding arrests warrants from East Baton Rouge and Orleans Parish. He also has an outstanding arrest warrant out of Tyler, Texas for indecency with a child, which reveals the alleged crimes date back several years.

The news release said the Texas affidavit sheds light on how the investigation began and how it landed Harris behind bars, bringing his law enforcement and military careers to an end.

Smith said that as of now, the FBI has dismissed Harris from its employment, stemming from these investigations and arrest, by addressing him in a letter as “Mr.” Harris, no longer using his previous rank and title. Harris’ US Army reserve status is still in review, read the release from the sheriff’s office.

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