Dressed in a pink polka-dot dress, a 19-year-old New Orleans woman testified Wednesday that New Orleans Police Department Officer Michael Thomassie raped her more than a decade ago, when she was a schoolgirl and he lived with her mother.
She told a jury that she’d come home in her school uniform and asked for permission to visit a friend. When her mother refused, she said, she got upset and turned to Thomassie, who joined the force in 2002.
“He says, ‘I can make you feel better.’ He says, ‘Get on all fours,’ pulls down his pants, tries to insert it in my vagina,” she said.
Thomassie spit on his fingers for lubrication, she testified, and she described sharp pain and said she told him to stop. He then ordered her into another room and forced her to perform oral sex on him, she testified. During the forced act, she said, her mother walked into the room and went ballistic.
“I was scared for my life, really. When my mom walked in, I didn’t know what to do,” she testified. “I really couldn’t do nothing about it.”
But neither the girl nor her mother reported the incident to police, and the mother kept seeing Thomassie, testifying later Wednesday that she kept him away from her children.
“I was like a hawk,” the mother said.
Only in 2013, after the couple had split, did the mother and daughter describe the incident to another relative. The girl’s angry father then called police.
Thomassie, 41, faces an aggravated rape charge that would send him to prison with a mandatory life sentence if convicted. He remains on the force in a paid desk job pending the outcome of the criminal case.
His attorney, Pat Fanning, cast doubt on the stories of the mother and daughter, calling them the product of the mother’s drug addiction, which he said in the past has unfurled outlandish, hallucinatory claims. Fanning said the mother, currently on probation, would “go on drug binges for days at a time and sometimes longer than that.”
He also sought to highlight inconsistencies in an early statement the girl gave to police.
Assistant District Attorney Laura Rodrigue acknowledged early on to the jury that the mother was “a hot mess,” but she backed the girl’s delayed reporting of the incident.
The New Orleans Advocate does not identify purported rape victims.
“Unfortunately for (the victim), we can say her mother may not have been the best for making decisions on (her) behalf or protecting her or her future,” Rodrigue argued. “We’re talking about a 10-year period before these allegations come to light. That 10 years is a lifetime for the victim in this case.”
Adding a sharp wrinkle to the case, prosecutors used a search warrant this week to dig up text messages that Thomassie typed out as he sat in the courtroom during jury selection.
Among them, he exchanged messages with a relative of the girl, and one with a girlfriend in which Thomassie said he prefers women’s genitalia shaved.
He also texted with a friend, veteran NOPD Sgt. Bruce Glaudi, who opined on what would happen if the victim, who admitted at first to being reluctant to come forward, didn’t show up for the trial.
Thomassie mentioned to Glaudi that prosecutors had just disclosed they planned to call an expert witness to explain the psychology of delayed rape reporting.
Glaudi texted: “If (she) wants to drop the charges or not testify, how can they charge her with perjury?”
“The DA has them scared. They’re dirty. That’s what they do,” Thomassie responded.
“I know, I’ve seen it,” Glaudi texted back. “(Fanning) is sharp, and he’s dealing with two dumb females, so you should be OK.”
The disparaging comments were believed to refer not to prosecutors but to the victim and her mother.
Over Fanning’s vehement objections, Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier allowed prosecutors to use the texts during the trial, which continued into the night Wednesday.
“Whether Bruce Glaudi wanted to be part of this case, he is now. His comments go to the heart of this case,” Rodrigue said — referring to allegations that Thomassie worked to dissuade the girl from coming forward.
“We learned exactly what was going through his head. How could that not be relevant when you’re talking about the rape of a 7-year-old girl?” she said.
Glaudi, a 30-year veteran, recently came under harsh criticism from Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson’s office, which accused him of shoddy work investigating an NOPD drug raid in 2012 in which another officer fatally shot an unarmed man, Wendell Allen.
NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison on Wednesday said he was unaware of Glaudi’s text messages to Thomassie this week.
“I’m going to look into it, and wherever it takes me, it will take me,” Harrison said.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.