David Peralta is looking for love in all the wrong places.
That, at least, is what a 50-year-old St. Bernard Parish woman has alleged about the beleaguered parish leader, who she claims took a strong interest in her online dating profile about a year before she and her neighbors began noticing him sitting in his car near her home.
Vicki Capro called the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office on April 19 to report a series of incidents that she said left her feeling distressed and nervous.
Capro said she joined the online dating website OurTime.com in September 2013. Soon afterward, she said, Peralta was regularly viewing her online profile — more than 50 times in a few months, though he never tried contacting her directly.
“That was right around the time that we were hearing allegations that he had raped his wife, and so I was very uneasy about this man looking at my profile,” Capro said by phone Monday. She has since deleted her dating account.
A St. Bernard sheriff’s deputy, Sgt. Corey Beebe, interviewed Capro and her neighbors, who said they saw Peralta’s blue Ford Expedition — affixed with a parish logo — sitting across the street from Capro’s home in Poydras.
One time, a neighbor said, Peralta briefly idled in his car before realizing that the women had seen him, at which point he turned onto a nearby street, stopped again and continued watching from a distance. The neighbor said she recognized the driver as Peralta.
Another time, the same neighbor was on the porch with Capro and another woman when they saw Peralta pull up again. When he saw them on the porch, they allege, Peralta sped off down the street. All told, Capro said, Peralta was spotted in the neighborhood three times in four days.
Capro said it wouldn’t have been hard for Peralta to track her down. “It’s a very small, tight-knit community,” she said.
In fact, Capro remembers meeting Peralta at a local diner as he campaigned for St. Bernard’s top job in 2011. Asked if she voted for him, she said, “You know, I actually did. I wish I could take that back.”
Reached by phone Monday, Peralta dismissed Capro’s claims, saying he didn’t know her, hadn’t looked at her dating page and hadn’t been on the dating site for at least a year. If he was seen in her neighborhood, he said, it’s because he’s been taking care of his young grandson and was dropping the boy off at his father’s house on a nearby street.
“That’s why I was in that subdivision,” he said. “That’s how ridiculous this has gotten.”
Capro said she doesn’t plan to pursue criminal charges but wanted the incidents documented.
She said the street where Peralta said he was dropping off the boy has “nothing to do with my street whatsoever. It’s just the next street. They don’t cross in any way, shape or form.”
Peralta’s attorney, Martin Regan, called Capro’s allegations “unfounded.”
Regan mentioned a six-count indictment handed up against Peralta this month that spelled out claims that Peralta misspent thousands of dollars in campaign contributions at Gulf Coast casinos — a prosecution that Regan claims is politically motivated — and wondered aloud whether Capro was in on what he says is a sprawling conspiracy against his client.
“For them to say that he’s stalking her or causing her problems going down a public street to drop a child off, to me is very offensive,” Regan said.
Tulane Law School professor Tania Tetlow, a former prosecutor who heads the school’s Domestic Violence Clinic, said it’s unlikely prosecutors would make a new stalking case against Peralta based strictly on the allegations outlined in the Sheriff’s Office report on Capro’s complaint.
Louisiana state law stipulates that stalking is “the intentional and repeated following or harassing of another person that would cause a reasonable person to feel alarmed or to suffer emotional distress.”
Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, said that state prosecutors have been “forwarded the report and are currently evaluating it for the appropriate action.”
A search of the dating website Monday turned up Peralta’s purported profile, but it’s unclear from looking at it whether he has used it much lately.
“I pride myself on honesty and integrity more than anything else,” according to the profile, which includes two photographs of him. “I am very straightford (sic) and do not like playing games. I am looking to have a nice time and to meet new people.”
The profile says he is “looking for marriage, a serious relationship, a travel partner, a casual relationship, or a pen pal.”
Peralta has faced mounting legal troubles since October 2013, when his then-wife, Sharon Schaefer, accused him of handcuffing, beating and raping her in their Meraux home. He denied the claim. They have since divorced.
In April 2014, he was charged in St. Bernard Parish with sexual battery, a felony count that was dismissed at the state’s request last month. He also faces a stalking charge in St. Tammany Parish, a case that’s set for trial next month.
Peralta has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Attorney General’s Office, saying its prosecution is politically motivated and that he is being unfairly targeted because he’s not “part of the ‘good ole boy’ network.”
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.