Charged with domestic abuse battery after a fight last year, the estranged wife of a New Orleans Municipal Court judge is turning up the legal heat on her counterclaim that she’s a victim both of repeated physical abuse by Judge Paul Sens and of his influence as a jurist.
Ann Sens, 56, last week asked a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to “consider the possible prosecution of the ‘alleged victim’ in this matter, Paul N. Sens, and any of his agents.”
That legal filing echoed a lawsuit she filed last month in Civil District Court, seeking damages for what she claims was a lengthy history of violent abuse over a marriage of more than 30 years.
In both, Ann Sens makes a series of sordid allegations.
She claims Paul Sens, 59, at different times left her with a black eye, separated her shoulder by throwing her to the ground, dragged her, slapped her and threatened, “I’d gladly give $1,000 to the battered women’s clinic for just one good punch in your face!”
In both his divorce filing and in his statement to police following the May 2 fight — which ended with Ann Sens booked on counts of domestic abuse battery and disturbing the peace — Paul Sens painted a decidedly different picture.
He alleged that Ann Sens “has physically abused (him) on a number of occasions.” She “beat petitioner ... and kicked him in the testicles,” according to a divorce filing.
The 2014 scrap, which left Ann Sens with a sore face and Paul Sens with a gash from a bite on his right arm, has taken on a central role in the couple’s divorce case. It occurred a day after Ann Sens filed for divorce.
Ann Sens is scheduled to be arraigned in the battery case Tuesday in Criminal District Court; the case is being handled by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office.
Orleans Parish District Attoney Leon Cannizzaro’s office recused itself, as did all of the Criminal Court judges, whose ranks Paul Sens had hoped to join when he ran a failed campaign last year for a seat on the bench. The case has been assigned to retired Judge James Cannella, a former appellate judge.
During his campaign, Paul Sens highlighted his work during 18 years in Municipal Court, including a “very sophisticated program for domestic violence” cases at the court.
In the 2014 incident, police apparently believed Paul Sens’ story. According to police, Ann Sens also threatened the officers and said she intended to notify the news media. “If I’m going down,” she is quoted as saying, “all of y’all are going down.”
Ann Sens admits biting her husband but claims it happened only after he punched her in the face.
Ever since she called 911 outside the couple’s home in the 7000 block of Gen. Haig Street, she has claimed, police bent over backwards for her husband.
In her motion for a special prosecutor, Ann Sens describes the police response to her 911 call as “a sham,” alleging her arrest was “solely to protect the reputation and ‘honor’ of a sitting New Orleans judge.”
The police report from the incident says she showed no visible injury, though a report from Interim LSU Hospital describes bruising to her face, scalp and neck.
Loyola law professor Dane Ciolino called the quest for a special prosecutor a reach.
“That would be unheard of in such a case. When the local DA is recused, the AG takes over the investigation and, if deemed necessary, the prosecution of a case. There is nowhere else to turn,” Ciolino said.
Ann Sens’ attorney, Richard Ducote, cites state law that gives judges leeway when a district attorney recuses himself.
“It’s unusual, but there is no prosecutor available to prosecute Paul Sens if he committed any crime. This is one of the circumstances I believe (state law) contemplates,” Ducote said.
He stopped short of accusing the judge of wielding his influence to have Ann Sens prosecuted.
“I think the police investigation was something other than it should have been because he’s a judge. He got presumptions and deference,” Ducote said. “They didn’t ask him if he hit her.”
Paul Sens’ attorney, Theon Wilson, did not respond to calls for comment.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.