A federal magistrate has dismissed a civil rights lawsuit filed last year by the former mistress of Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Lonnie Greco, finding no evidence the sheriff harassed the woman or orchestrated her arrest on “doctor shopping” charges after she ended their affair.
Carol Ruggles, a former Sheriff’s Office employee, claimed she had been forced to resign after ending the 16-month romance, and that Greco retaliated against her by having the Sheriff’s Office — and later the State Police — investigate her for prescription pill abuse.
Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby, however, found that the criminal investigation actually began after Ruggles’ brother accused her of using him to obtain prescription drugs. Citing a series of racy text messages, Roby noted Greco and Ruggles had still been in a sexual relationship when the probe began.
“While Sheriff Greco’s initiation of the investigation may have been in poor taste or unethical given his relationship with Ruggles, Ruggles has not presented any evidence, and has not alleged, that he initiated the investigation due to their sexual relationship,” Roby wrote in a 23-page ruling.
The judge also held there was no evidence Ruggles had been “badgered” by Greco, as she claimed, pointing to a regular sexual banter the two shared. She also found that the meeting that led to Ruggles’ resignation from the Sheriff’s Office was planned before she ended the relationship.
“Text messages sent between Ruggles and Sheriff Greco indicate that both individuals initiated their sexual discourse and that it was well received by the recipient,” Roby wrote.
Greco said in a news release Wednesday that the affair — which he referred to as a “lapse in judgment” — had no impact on his operation of the Sheriff’s Office.
“I offer my sincere apologies to the citizens of this parish for this indiscretion on my part,” the sheriff said. “It was an inappropriate relationship, but I am relieved the court saw this for what it was, a consensual relationship, outside my duties as sheriff, and at no time was Mrs. Ruggles’ rights ever violated.”
Ruggles’ attorney, Ronald Wilson, said his client has not decided whether to appeal.
“Admittedly, it was a consensual relationship, but it was conducted on public property,” Wilson said, referring to Ruggles’ claim that the trysts occurred in numerous venues, including a Sheriff’s Office trailer and warehouse.
Wilson also said that Roby made clear in her ruling that Greco’s behavior had been “over the top.”
“The sheriff is under the impression he was issued a clean bill of health,” he added, “and it’s just not the case.”
Authorities have said the doctor-shopping investigation began as an offshoot from an unrelated sexual molestation case. State Police arrested Ruggles on more than two dozen counts, and she later entered a pretrial diversion program that included a drug education course and community service.
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