GONZALES — A former Ascension Parish sheriff’s detective arrested Tuesday on allegations he had sex with a 14-year-old runaway will remain in parish jail without bail until a court hearing Monday, sheriff’s deputies said Wednesday.
William P. Lanoux, 31, of Prairieville, was booked on counts of first-degree rape and malfeasance in office over the incident that deputies say happened while he was on duty and nearing the end of his shift Monday night.
Under state law, conviction on a charge of first-degree rape brings a mandatory life sentence.
Lanoux, who was fired Tuesday, told investigators that he believed the girl was 18 years old when he picked her up in his sheriff’s vehicle Monday night after coordinating a rendezvous with her through social media, Sheriff Jeff Wiley said.
Lanoux didn’t realize the youth’s actual age until he heard about a 14-year-old runaway on the dispatch radio in his sheriff’s vehicle. Before that, Lanoux reportedly told investigators, he thought he had a consensual sexual encounter with an adult, Wiley has said.
Under state law, juveniles can’t legally consent to sex until they are 17. Ignorance of a juvenile’s age is not a defense.
Lt. Col. Bobby Webre, sheriff’s chief of criminal operations, said Lanoux was booked with the first-degree rape count, not because of the girl’s age, but because the detective was armed with his service weapon when he picked up the girl.
Under state law, a suspect can be charged with first-degree rape for a variety of reasons, including when an armed suspect is accused of preventing the victim from resisting intercourse or by having sex with someone younger than 13.
While there is no allegation that Lanoux, who was in plainclothes at the time, in any way used the weapon to coerce the girl, Webre said, the detective was still armed.
Wiley said the count also was appropriate because a 14-year-old could have felt intimidated by being in a car with an armed deputy and been reluctant to resist.
Wiley added that the girl told detectives in an initial interview Monday that she got in Lanoux’s unmarked sheriff’s vehicle because she felt intimidated and that their encounter was not consensual.
But investigators also have Lanoux’s online conversation with the girl in which she says she’s 18, Wiley said. In that conversation, Lanoux told the girl he was a sheriff’s deputy, the sheriff said, adding that the victim was “complicit” in setting up the meeting with him.
Detectives had planned to interview the victim again and present her with those online conversations, Wiley said Tuesday night.
But Webre said Wednesday the second interview did not happen.
Lanoux, who began working for the Sheriff’s Office in, was named a sheriff’s detective after he returned from his military deployment in Afghanistan in the fall of 2014, Webre said. Lanoux did not have a specialized position as a detective, instead working on general assignments.
Webre said he couldn’t immediately recall whether Lanoux was ever assigned a homicide case.
Prosecutors in Ascension Parish said Wednesday that they planned to look into what cases Lanoux has handled as his arrest is likely to become an issue raised by defense attorneys.
“We don’t know the effect he’s going to have on any of our current cases,” said Tyler Cavalier, spokesman for the 23rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Webre said no time has been set for the bail hearing Monday nor has a judge been assigned.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.