Authorities in Plaquemines Parish have accused a Belle Chasse woman of filing a false police report after she allegedly embellished her version of an exchange she had with a Parish Council candidate to include an allegation of unauthorized entry into her home.
Cmdr. Eric Becnel, spokesman for the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office, said Michelle Wilcox, 47, told investigators that District 4 candidate Shelly Chiappetta came into her home uninvited on Nov. 2 and confronted her about a Facebook post Wilcox had made earlier.
But after reviewing video surveillance footage from cameras at the entrance to Wilcox’s house and an audio recording Chiappetta had on the phone she was carrying in her pocket, investigators determined Chiappetta had knocked and stepped back and that the door opened while she had her hands in her pockets.
Wilcox was issued a summons on the charge of criminal mischief.
According to the arrest report, Chiappetta entered Wilcox’s house at 9 p.m. and was there for eight minutes before leaving. Other than being asked to keep her voice down because of a sleeping child, the confrontation was unremarkable, the report indicates.
Becnel said Wilcox also recorded the exchange on her phone, though that recording began after Chiappetta entered the house.
The police report said only that the offending Facebook post was on a story from nola.com. No further details were available Thursday.
Chiappetta is in a runoff against Irvin Juneau Jr. in the election to be decided Dec. 6.
Becnel said Sheriff Lonnie Greco decided to issue a news release announcing the arrest, which is only a misdemeanor citation, because the rumor mill had begun churning about the incident and that the crime Chiappetta was accused by Wilcox of committing is a felony.
“We wanted to set the record straight on it,” he said. “She was accusing a political candidate of a felony crime.”
Becnel said neither candidate is tied to the Sheriff’s Office, though he noted Juneau was a deputy decades ago. He said Greco is not endorsing anyone in the race.
Becnel said that if it weren’t for the recordings proving her innocence, deputies would have had to arrest Chiappetta, which could have been very damaging to her professionally and politically.
“If anybody is considering filing a false police report in Plaquemines Parish, you’re going to be arrested and dealt with in accordance with the law,” he said.
If the charge of criminal mischief is accepted by the District Attorney’s Office and Wilcox is convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.
Editor’s note: This story was changed June 22, 2015, to reflect that Wilcox was not booked into custody; rather, she was issued a summons.