St. Charles Parish District Attorney Joel Chaisson II said Tuesday he was “extremely disappointed” that the identity of the high school student at the center of sex allegations against two parish teachers was disclosed in a court filing by a state judge who recused herself from the case.
The filing, made last week by 29th Judicial District Court Judge Michele Morel, “identified the name, address and phone number of the juvenile victim in this case,” he said, but the document was not available in the court record for long.
“I am very appreciative of the fact that this was promptly brought to our attention by the Clerk’s Office so that we were able to quickly get an order redacting all identifying information of the juvenile victim from the public record as required by law,” Chaisson said in a brief statement.
Shelley Dufresne, 32, is facing criminal proceedings in both St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.
She was arrested Sept. 30 by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office and booked on one count of carnal knowledge of a juvenile stemming from an alleged sexual encounter at a home in Montz with the teenager, who was 16 at the time.
A day later, Dufresne was arrested again, along with 24-year-old Rachel Respess, for allegedly having a three-way sexual encounter with the student in Respess’ Kenner apartment after a Destrehan football game last month.
Both women have been suspended from their jobs without pay.
Dufresne is the daughter of 29th Judicial District Court Judge Emile St. Pierre, who also stepped aside from the case, as did Judge Lauren Lemmon.
It was Morel, in a motion filed Oct. 7, who revealed the teen’s identity when she recused herself from the case, though she said she “could conduct any judicial proceedings fairly and impartially ... even though Judge St. Pierre is her colleague.”
Morel included an arrest warrant with her filing and ordered that the Clerk’s Office include it in the court record, according to Chaisson’s office. The warrant revealed the alleged victim’s identity.
The following day, Julie Cullen, an assistant district attorney who is prosecuting the case for Chaisson’s office, filed a motion requesting that the alleged victim’s information be redacted from the arrest warrant that Morel had filed with her recusal order.
“This had the unfortunate effect of having the victim’s name and address and telephone number made part of the public record in this matter,” Cullen wrote.
Morel issued a statement late Tuesday saying, “While I accept responsibility for any oversight, we have trusted the clerk of court in the past to place under seal any and all sensitive information involving juveniles, and I expected this case to be handled the same as all others have been handled. I will investigate this matter further.”
The New Orleans Advocate does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent.
Retired Judge Anne Lennan Simon, formerly of the 16th Judicial District Court in New Iberia, has been appointed as an ad hoc judge to handle the proceedings against Dufresne. Simon signed the order requested by Cullen — to redact the student’s personal information — the same day.
The court record indicates that Dufresne may be facing additional charges. In a letter to the court, Chaisson noted last week that “potential additional charges” against Dufresne were being investigated.
Dufresne is due to appear Oct. 23 in 29th Judicial District Court in Hahnville.
Both she and Respess are due in 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna for a status conference Nov. 17.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.