Three former Baton Rouge police officers, one who resigned months before the trio was indicted in November and two who were fired less than 48 hours after the indictment, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that accuse one of them of forcing a woman to perform a sex act at a park in February while all three were on duty.
Attorneys for Isaac M. Bolden, Emerson J. Jackson and Travis D. Wheeler vehemently denied the abuse of office allegations, and Jackson’s and Wheeler’s lawyers said their clients want to return to the force after they are exonerated.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said his office stands behind the charges.
“We agree with the grand jury’s decision to indict and will move forward with the prosecution of this case and look forward to a full presentation of all of the evidence that we have,” Moore said.
Bolden, 40, is accused of forcing the woman to perform a sex act on him the night of Feb. 4 at Old Hammond Park.
“Absolutely untrue,” Bolden’s attorney, John DiGiulio, said outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse shortly after he pleaded not guilty on behalf of Bolden, who did not attend Monday’s arraignment.
“This case will have to go to trial if they persist,” DiGiulio said. “I just think the allegations are totally false.”
Jackson, 32, and Wheeler, 27, are accused of forcing the woman’s male companion to exit the BREC park, leaving her alone with the officers.
Wheeler is the only one of the three ex-officers who showed up at the arraignment. He told the judge he is not guilty.
“Mr. Wheeler denies the allegations this lady has made against him,” Harry Daniels III, who represents Wheeler, said outside the courthouse.
Daniels said Wheeler acknowledges he encountered the woman while investigating what he thought was an abandoned car in the park but denies anything sexual occurred.
Jackson’s attorney, Tommy Damico, pleaded not guilty on Jackson’s behalf and said afterward that Jackson was the third officer to arrive on the scene.
“Mr. Jackson arrived later. He did not see any inappropriate action take place,” Damico said.
Jackson and Wheeler both want their jobs back, their attorneys stressed.
“He felt he did a good job as a police officer. He enjoyed his work here,” Damico said of Jackson. “He wishes to go back as a police officer.”
Bolden, Jackson and Wheeler were on duty, in uniform and in marked police cars at the time of the alleged incident, prosecutors have said.
The men allegedly threatened to tow the woman’s car or take her to jail and also allegedly threatened to arrest her male friend, prosecutors said.
Their next scheduled court date is April 24.
An abuse of office conviction carries possible prison time of up to five years, but probation is a possible sentence.