Two days after he was led out of the parish courthouse in handcuffs, St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta on Thursday dismissed the latest batch of criminal charges against him as retaliatory and reiterated that he will not resign from office, even if doing so meant the pending criminal charges he’s facing in three jurisdictions were dropped.
Peralta struck a defiant tone Thursday, two days after a state grand jury in Chalmette handed up a 22-count indictment against him. It marked the fourth time Peralta, 61, has been criminally charged in the past 16 months.
The latest indictment includes allegations of wrongdoing related to his position as parish president, including 11 counts of malfeasance and six counts of abuse of office.
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office claims Peralta’s crimes spanned nearly two years and were committed as recently as last month, when Peralta allegedly obtained a list of parish employees’ addresses and then used the list to solicit campaign donations from them.
The Parish Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday calling on Peralta to step down by Friday. But the first-term parish leader said he won’t quit even if it meant the pending criminal charges against him were dropped.
“I’m fighting it because it’s not true,” he said of the charges. “I’ve never backed down from a fight in my life. I’m not going to back down from a group of bullies. That’s not going to happen.”
In addition to Peralta, the grand jury on Tuesday handed up an indictment against Jarrod Gourgues, who worked in the parish’s roads department and until recently was a part-time deputy in the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office. Gourgues, who faces counts of theft, malfeasance in office and perjury, is still employed by the parish, Peralta said.
Peralta claims he is being targeted by Caldwell for political reasons. He said the latest indictment is retaliation for a federal lawsuit he filed contending that Caldwell’s office relied on false testimony to obtain a grand jury indictment against him in April 2014 on a sexual battery charge. The charge was later dropped.
Prosecutors have said additional charges tied to the probe involving Peralta are still possible.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” he said of the chance of additional charges. “I fully expect them to have another grand jury. I fully expect them to try to indict me on something else.”
Peralta’s latest legal trouble adds to the mounting spate of charges he already faces in two different jurisdictions, including stalking, perjury and filing false public records. He said he’s taking some time off from work this week to regroup.
“I need some time alone,” he said. “I need some time to calm down. Am I angry? Of course I’m angry. But I’m not angry at my employees, and I’m not angry at the people of St. Bernard. My anger is directed toward an attorney general who has unbridled authority to do whatever he wants.”
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.