A former Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputy charged with using excessive force in striking a handcuffed man in 2013 pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court.
Cody Laperouse, 29, faces up to a year in prison on the misdemeanor civil rights charge, which was handed down March 16. He could also be sentenced to a fine up to $100,000 and up to a year of supervised release.
“There was a lot of heartache about what to do,” said attorney Richard Spears, who represents Laperouse. “But he wants to get this put behind him.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna accepted the plea during Laperouse’s arraignment in Western District Court in Lafayette.
The incident happened in the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 2013, when Laperouse was one of several deputies dispersing residents at a Hopkins Street party after the Sugar Cane Festival.
The victim, Christopher Butler, was handcuffed after he refused to leave the area, according to information presented during Tuesday’s hearing.
Butler alleges in a federal civil lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office that he approached a group of deputies to ask why they had taken his brother-in-law into custody.
A cellphone video posted to YouTube shows Butler handcuffed and sitting against a car when Laperouse walks toward him, yells “I told you to lay on your belly!” and pushes him to the ground before delivering the command again.
Laperouse then uses his baton in a “peroneal strike” — a disabling blow to a nerve behind the knee — which causes a temporary loss of motor function in the leg. He yells the command again and strikes Butler once more. It all happens within 10 seconds.
The strike is an allowable use of force in police practice but was a “premature and excessive use of force” in this instance, Hanna said in court.
“Law enforcement officers play a critical role in our society and every day put their lives on the line to serve our citizens,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said in a prepared statement. “They are the unsung heroes who take an oath to follow the law and to keep us safe. Unfortunately, Mr. Laperouse breached that trust and violated his oath by using excessive force on a member of our community.”
U.S. Attorney Joe Mickel represents the federal government in the case.
Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal fired Laperouse after the incident and asked the FBI to investigate the case, which led to the federal charge.
Laperouse now works for the St. Martinville Police Department.
The Sheriff’s Office faces two other excessive force lawsuits in federal court over the incident: one from Butler’s brother-in-law, David Hardin, and the other from Aundrea L. Moore, who alleges Laperouse slammed her to the ground after she saw Butler in custody and approached to ask if she could call his family.
The Sheriff’s Office has settled Moore’s lawsuit, according to court records, but the terms were not immediately available Tuesday evening.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.