Peralta facing possible contempt of court charge _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- St. Bernard Parish President Dave Peralta leaves the parish jail after posting bond in April.

St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta will face a contempt hearing next month to determine whether he violated a restraining order by emailing his ex-wife against court orders.

Judge Michael Kirby, handling the case for the 34th Judicial District Court in Chalmette, finalized a divorce between Peralta and Sharon Schaefer on Tuesday and set a contempt hearing for Aug. 4.

In court filings, Schaefer has accused Peralta of continuing “to harass and threaten” her in emails sent “from various addresses” and in online posts on the website

Earlier this year, Kirby signed off on an agreement reached by the couple’s attorneys — after they both filed for restraining orders — stipulating that neither one would contact the other in person, by telephone or electronically, and that neither would threaten the other.

The judge’s order forbade them to contact each other either in person or over the phone, “through website posting on the internet, text messaging or other electronic communication means.”

In filings this week, Schaefer accused Peralta of breaking that agreement. She included 17 pages of emails in the court record and said the exchanges have given her “significant distress, fear and anxiety.”

Almost all of the emails were sent from America Online accounts, including one address that Peralta has previously used to email reporters.

“First of all, I hope you are doing well,” begins a June 13 email with the subject line “Dumplin,” signed “Dave.”

It continues, “As you know the six months of our separation is nearing. I have only one question. Is there any reason that I should not move forward with the divorce? Please think this over and please at least show me the courtesy of giving me an answer.”

Another email followed just a few hours later. “Well I guess by your lack of response I got my answer. All the best dumplin,” it reads, signing off with, “I will always love you.”

Several emails filed in the record were more harsh, including name-calling and threats of publicly disclosing information about inconsistencies in Schaefer’s divorce paperwork.

It’s unclear which, if any, of the emails were sent by Peralta. He declined comment to a reporter Thursday, citing a gag order issued in the case last month.

One email included in the record, purportedly sent June 20 from the parish email of Lonnie Campbell, the former transit manager for St. Bernard Urban Rapid Transit, asked: “Are you sure you want this divorce? It is one week away.”

The high-profile, often bitter divorce proceedings have played out in public for much of the past year.

Schaefer accused her ex-husband in October of handcuffing, beating and raping her in their Meraux home. Peralta was indicted by a parish grand jury in April on a charge of sexual battery in connection with the incident. He is scheduled to be arraigned July 23.

Peralta maintains the couple engaged in “rough sex” on her 49th birthday at her request, but Schaefer has denied that assertion, saying the couple weren’t even on speaking terms at the time of the alleged rape.

Last month, Schaefer’s attorney called — then canceled — a news conference, promising to announce “major new developments” in the case. Just what the big news was remains unclear, though there had been speculation about emails of the kind that have now turned up in the court record. The attorney, Vernon Thomas, of New Orleans, has since withdrawn from the case, court records show.

Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.