Former deputy pleads guilty to unauthorized use of FBI database

A former law enforcement officer with two decades of experience in south Louisiana pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges of unauthorized use of an FBI database to check the criminal history of two people for non-law enforcement purposes.

Chad Hazelwood, 42, faces up to two years in prison after admitting to two misdemeanor counts of exceeding authorized computer access.

The two people who were the subject of the criminal history checks were identified in court documents only by their initials.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley did not give details on why Hazelwood was checking their backgrounds but said he accessed the FBI database “for non-law enforcement purposes.”

Hazelwood worked as a Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy from 2006 to 2011, according to information from Finley.

He worked as an Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputy from Nov. 4, 2011, to July 16, 2012, according to Capt. Ryan Turner, Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

Hazelwood also worked for several years with the New Iberia Police Department.

He pleaded guilty to accessing the database once in June 2011 and once in July 2011.

He had access to the FBI database in 2011 through his work as a member of the Lafayette area’s U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force, according to Finley.

“Mr. Hazelwood is a 20-year veteran of law enforcement with an unblemished record,” said Hazelwood’s attorney, Michael Skinner. “He did have an error in judgment, and he has admitted that.”

Hazelwood faces up to one year in prison on each count of unauthorized access he admitted to, but federal prosecutors agreed as part of his plea deal to recommend that any sentence be served concurrently, which would bring the maximum sentence down to one year.

No sentencing date has been set.

U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Michael Hill allowed Hazelwood to remain free without bail pending sentencing.