“Major new developments” in the ongoing legal proceedings involving St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta, who was indicted by a state grand jury in April on a charge of sexual battery, were slated to be unveiled Friday in a news conference organized by his estranged wife’s lawyer.
And then they weren’t.
Vernon Thomas, an attorney for Sharon Schaefer Peralta, sent out an email Wednesday alerting reporters to a news conference that would be held Friday to release the big news. Thomas left strict instructions for members of the local press corps: Call ahead to reserve a spot, bring up-to-date press credentials and a state ID, and keep the location of the conference secret until after it was over.
But by Thursday afternoon, Thomas had called the whole thing off.
“Sharon is waiting for additional information from the (Attorney General’s) Office and will reschedule the press conference upon receipt of the additional information,” he wrote. “Sorry for the inconvenience.”
Just why the news conference was called in the first place was unclear.
A look at the court record of the case at 34th Judicial District Court in Chalmette offered few clues. Both Peralta and his attorney, Stephen London, said by phone that any “major new development” in the case was news to them. And Thomas, also reached by phone, declined to divulge any specifics, though he added that the news conference may be rescheduled as soon as next week.
Steven Hartmann, a spokesman for Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, said his office couldn’t comment because the case is pending.
Peralta was indicted in April on a charge that he sexually battered his now-estranged wife. She, however, alleges he brutally raped her in their Meraux home in October.
Peralta has publicly contended that the couple had engaged in “rough sex” on her 49th birthday, at her request. He also claims that she asked him to fulfill her “rape fantasy.” Sharon Peralta, whom he dated for six years before they were married in March 2012, has denied that assertion, saying the couple weren’t even on speaking terms at the time.
David Peralta filed for divorce in December.
Sharon Peralta took her complaint to the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office, which passed the case along to the Louisiana State Police. After the State Police concluded their investigation, the Attorney General’s Office picked up the case. St. Bernard Parish District Attorney Jack Rowley recused his office in late December.
Under Louisiana law, sexual battery is described, in part, as “the intentional touching of the anus or genitals of the victim by the offender using any instrumentality or any part of the body of the offender.” It is a less serious crime than rape, but it is a felony and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Peralta is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. July 23.
All five judges on the 34th Judicial District Court bench recused themselves from hearing the case. Retired Judge Frank Foil, who served on the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal, was appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court as an ad hoc judge to hear the case.
David Peralta has said he plans to run for re-election next year.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.