A lawyer for a Baton Rouge woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by an Angola deputy warden several times in 2016 is asking an appellate court to revive her lawsuit against a local prosecutor for allegedly failing to adequately pursue rape charges.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month dismissed Priscilla Lefebure's lawsuit against 20th Judicial District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla, despite calling the allegations "sickening" and accusing D'Aquilla of possibly harming the public's perception of the legal system.

Lefebure's attorney, Jack Rutherford, filed a petition Monday asking the full 5th Circuit to rehear the case.

"It is difficult to imagine a more appalling crime, one mixing abuse of state power with abuse of a woman's body, outside of a war zone," Rutherford wrote.

D'Aquilla has said he cannot comment on the ongoing litigation.

The 5th Circuit panel ruled on Feb. 9 that, while D'Aquilla declined to adequately help Lefebure, it had no authority to force him or any district attorney to investigate or prosecute someone and, as a result, had to end her lawsuit.

Rutherford warned that the panel's decision, if allowed to stand, would have far-reaching consequences.

"The effect of the panel's drastic holding would also eliminate the entire movement towards crime victims' rights," he stated.

Rutherford alleged that D'Aquilla's "custom and practice of refusing to properly investigate and prosecute sexual assault crimes against women because of gender-based stereotypes" merely "emboldened" then-Angola assistant warden Barrett Boeker to rape Lefebure at his home on the prison grounds.

"This all happened because that officer knew he could get away with it. And so far, he has," Rutherford wrote.

Lefebure had sought refuge at Boeker's home after the 2016 floods forced her from her Baton Rouge home, the attorney said. Lefebure is a cousin of Boeker's wife and children.

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A grand jury looked at evidence in 2017, but D'Aquilla didn't give the jurors access to a "rape kit" or a report compiled by a hospital nurse.

D'Aquilla has said the grand jury didn't need to examine results of Lefebure's sexual assault forensic examination because both the victim and the perpetrator said sexual intercourse had occurred. He said the pertinent question in the case was consent, which could not be determined by the rape kit evidence.

Boeker and Lefebure each testified before the grand jury, and the lawsuit says Boeker is the only one who claimed Lefebure consented.

"These were not consensual encounters," Rutherford reiterated in the 5th Circuit rehearing petition.

Circuit Judge James Ho wrote on Feb. 9 that if Lefebure's account is correct, "then the system failed her — badly. ... For surely she expected to have the support of her state's elected and appointed prosecutors, investigators, and other officials in her pursuit of justice."

Lefebure's lawsuit, filed in late 2017, alleges that neither D'Aquilla nor anyone from his office ever met or spoke with her about the alleged rape, and that the district attorney told reporters he was "uncomfortable" speaking with her.

Boeker's attorney, Cy D'Aquila, a distant relative of the district attorney, has said previously that Boeker insists the sex was consensual, and he passed a privately administered polygraph examination on that point.

Lefebure has claims pending against Boeker in federal district court.

The Advocate typically does not name people who report they are victims of sexual assault, but Lefebure has said she wants to use her name.

Boeker had been placed on administrative leave following the rape allegation but later returned to work at the prison. He was fired last year after spraying an inmate with a fire extinguisher. He is facing felony criminal charges stemming from that incident.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.