A Mandeville man who spent more than two months in jail on a rape allegation before the case was dropped has sued the city of Mandeville, its police chief, a detective and two other officers in federal court, alleging that his civil rights were violated.
Attorneys for Luke Liberto filed the suit in New Orleans on Dec. 30, asking for compensation and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees.
In the suit, Liberto alleges that the Mandeville police, led by Detective Jason Readeau, relied only on a questionable statement by Liberto’s former girlfriend to sustain the allegation of rape and that they refused to consider evidence to the contrary before booking him. Bail for Liberto was set at $25,000, and he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, pay it.
Meanwhile, his case meandered through the legal system. The District Attorney’s Office recused itself, and on April 1, the Attorney General’s Office dropped the charge. Liberto was released the next day.
In Liberto’s account of the events that led to his arrest, his ex-girlfriend had been living with him, and on the evening of Jan. 17, 2015, he awoke to find her making sexual advances, to which he “responded.” But when the two began to discuss the nature of their relationship, the woman became angry and argued with Liberto before leaving the house.
Later that day, the detective and other members of the Mandeville Police Department arrested Liberto based on a complaint by the woman. The detectives, Liberto says, refused to consider other evidence — such as text messages — or talk to witnesses, such as Liberto’s roommate, who is his sister, the suit says.
One of the two attorneys representing Liberto is former Assistant District Attorney Julie Knight, who left the District Attorney’s Office in July. Knight did not return several calls or emails for comment.
Reached by phone, Mandeville police spokesman Gerald Sticker said the chief had not been served with the suit and couldn’t comment. He acknowledged that the department had investigated the case and noted the warrant for Liberto’s arrest was signed by a judge.
Mandeville police rarely investigate rape cases. In 2014, for instance, the city reported zero rapes. Statistics for 2015 are not yet available.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.