A lawsuit alleging Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle and Police Chief Euris Dubois intentionally botched the investigation into whether an elderly boat captain with ties to both men had molested a 6-year-old boy in 2010 has been settled in state district court.
The trial was supposed to get underway Monday before Judge Stephen Grefer in 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna but was settled, according to court documents.
The lawsuit, filed last year, stemmed from an allegation that has been tried twice as a criminal matter in state court, resulting both times in mistrials, and once at the federal level, where the case was dismissed on the eve of trial.
Details of the settlement were not available Monday, and attorneys for both sides were not immediately available for comment. Camardelle also could not be reached.
The suit was filed by an Ascension Parish woman against boat captain Jerry Dantin, Dubois, Camardelle and the town of Grand Isle, alleging that Dantin, who was a friend of Dubois and is the live-in boyfriend of Camardelle’s mother, molested her son on his boat in 2010.
According to the lawsuit, the boy told his mother on March 30, 2010, that Dantin had “done something bad to him a few weeks earlier,” making the boy rub cream on Dantin’s penis and stick his fingers into Dantin’s anus.
A day later, the boy’s father told Camardelle, who pleaded with him to wait until after Easter and said he would take it to the police the following Monday.
The boy’s father agreed, but Camardelle didn’t follow through on that promise and didn’t return calls, so the boy’s mother went to the police station to give a statement. Camardelle brought Dantin to the station and was allowed into the room during questioning, where Dantin initially claimed to be innocent.
The boy’s mother told Dantin she would not press charges if he would admit what he did and promise to stay away from her son. Dantin began to confess, only to have Dubois tell him to hold off until they could get a working tape recorder. A secretary also was allegedly sent to a store to get batteries.
“In reality (Peggy) Chighizola went to her office to get batteries,” the suit says. “However, in a clear effort to not record Dantin’s confession, either Dubois or his assistant chief told Ms. Chighizola that there was no need for her to go back into the chief’s office with the batteries.”
Dubois then told the secretary to handwrite Dantin’s confession, and Dantin explicitly admitted to having the boy rub cream on his penis and in his anus.
The suit says the secretary complained Dantin was speaking too quickly and she couldn’t keep up. It also states that Dubois then handcuffed Dantin, who proclaimed he was going to kill himself.
“While all of this was happening, Mr. Camardelle was crying hysterically and uncontrollably, at times lying on the floor,” the lawsuit says. “At one point during this traumatic event, Mr. Camardelle thought he was having a heart attack and EMS was called to the police station to check (him) out. He was not having a heart attack.”
Dantin was arrested, but his confession was not recorded, nor did he write one down. The suit is not clear about what happened to the transcription by the secretary, so the police were left with no documentation of the confession.
In the ensuing months, the boy’s mother was told repeatedly by Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office investigators that they were not getting information they needed from Grand Isle police, and the suit claims it was clear the police chief was “willfully obstructing the investigation by the JPSO by refusing to cooperate with requests.”
Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick’s office charged Dantin with sexual battery of a juvenile on Aug. 20, 2010. He was tried in July and September of 2011, but both trials resulted in hung juries. The suit says both trials were hampered by the fact the chief didn’t secure a confession from Dantin.
The lawsuit accuses the chief and the mayor of lying under oath by concocting a story about Dantin having a rash that he wanted the boy to rub cream on.
Dantin, now in his early 80s, will not be tried again, having been found unfit to stand trial due to vascular dementia.
The suit settled Monday said the actions of Camardelle and Dubois amounted to a conspiracy that inflicted emotional distress on the boy and his family, causing physical and emotional pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, damage to reputation and medical bills.
The federal civil rights suit was thrown out by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey in June. Zainey said the department’s mishandling of the charges, even if intentional, didn’t amount to a violation of the victim’s civil rights because it didn’t block her access to the court system.
Dubois will leave office at the end of June. His successor, Laine Landry, was elected in March and will take office July 1.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.