David Peralta will never stop fighting the good fight.
That was the gist of a defiant half-page ad Peralta took out in the latest edition of The St. Bernard Parish Post, his hometown weekly.
In it, the beleaguered first-term parish leader vows to fight back against a state Attorney General’s Office that’s indicted him three times in just over a year, a mounting set of criminal charges that Peralta says is politically motivated.
Peralta’s ad went to the press less than a week after he was hit with six new counts, mostly tied to thousands of dollars that prosecutors say he withdrew from his political war chest and used to gamble at various Gulf Coast casinos over the past three years.
Separately, Peralta faces a stalking charge in St. Tammany Parish that’s set for trial next month. In April 2014, he was charged in St. Bernard Parish with sexual battery, a felony count that was dismissed at the state’s request days ahead of an April 20 trial date.
But Peralta’s ad — one of many that he’s used to deliver a personal message over the years, paid for with campaign money — insists that he is being targeted because he’s not “part of the ‘good ole boy’ network.”
Legal troubles for the former New Orleans police sergeant and St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office major have piled up since October 2013, when his then-wife, Sharon Schaefer, accused him of handcuffing, beating and raping her in their Meraux home. Peralta claims that the couple — still married at the time — had engaged in “rough sex” that day at her request; Schaefer denied that. They have since divorced.
Now, in his ad, Peralta referenced the incident as the starting point for his two-year courtroom drama.
“A very private matter between my former wife and I thrust me into the limelight and the sights of state prosecutors,” he wrote. “Initially they accused me of rape, a charge that they later downgraded to sexual battery. For nearly 14 months I fought the allegations being lodged against me and after over a year and only four days before I was prepared to defend myself in court the state prosecutors dropped ALL charges.”
(That’s only partly true: The stalking charge still remains on track for trial.)
He continued: “After nearly two years I decided that ‘enough was enough’ and it was time to fight back,” referencing a lawsuit he filed last month in federal court that alleges Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office relied on false testimony to obtain the initial April 2014 grand jury indictment.
“I have never backed down from a fight and I was not about to back down now,” Peralta wrote in the ad. “As predicted the state prosecutors sought additional charges in St. Bernard and now in East Baton Rouge. I only wish that I could speak more openly about the new allegations, but unlike the state prosecutors, I will continue to obey the orders of the courts and not violate their gag order.”
Near the end, Peralta grew reflective, remarking that he was once part of the same legal system that now bedevils him, leading him to “discover just how unfair and unjust it can be.”
“I wonder today what happens to the individual, who unlike me cannot afford good legal representation. How do they fight a system that has millions of dollars and nearly unlimited resources?” he wrote. “What I have discovered is they don’t. They simply have to give up and face a system that is so dysfunctional and unfair.”
That’s why, Peralta says, he’s not giving up, no matter what. “I know that my public criticism will only result in certain people interested in becoming the next parish president and the state prosecutors attacking me again, but as I said I have never backed down for a fight and this is a battle that needs to be won,” he wrote. “Not for my sake, but for every one of you and your children that could be unfairly treated and not be in a financial position to fight back.”
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter @rthompsonMSY.