St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta fired back Friday at the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, alleging in a new court filing that its prosecutors are interfering with his right to a fair trial and trying to taint potential jurors for his upcoming trial on a sexual battery charge.
The five-page filing in 34th Judicial District Court in Chalmette came a day after state prosecutors alleged in their own filing that they want to introduce evidence of additional crimes they believe Peralta has committed. They hope the new evidence will show Peralta had a motive for attacking his then-wife and will pave the way for new charges.
Peralta’s ex-wife, Sharon Schaefer, has accused him of handcuffing, beating and raping her in their Meraux home in October 2013. Peralta’s defense has centered on his insistence that the couple — still married at the time — occasionally engaged in “rough sex” and that he was fulfilling his wife’s “rape fantasy” that morning. Schaefer has denied asking her husband to “rape” her as part of a sexual game.
Prosecutors want to use the evidence outlined Thursday to argue that Peralta was the one interested in rough sex, that it was not consensual and that it happened when the couple was not on speaking terms. Their filing alleges that Peralta intended to extort Schaefer during their divorce proceedings using hundreds of sexually explicit photos of her. It also suggests that Peralta frequented thousands of hard-core pornographic websites last year, many of which depicted forced sex.
Peralta’s defense attorney, Martin Regan, has asked for an immediate court hearing on the prosecutors’ notice and requested that ad hoc Judge Frank Foil, who is presiding over the case, stipulate that future court filings in the case be made under seal. Foil ultimately will have final say on what, if any of it, is fair game in court.
In his filing Friday, Regan charged that prosecutors are eager to “garner headlines and defame” the first-term parish leader.
Regan wrote that, “With the purposeful intent to poison the jury pool, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office did see fit to design a legal pleading in which it parroted Sharon (Schaefer’s) defamatory screeds assailing the character of her former husband.”
Foil should have had the opportunity to first rule on the admissibility of the 96 pages of exhibits prosecutors included in Thursday’s filing, Regan argued, calling its content “inappropriately manufactured imagined ‘crimes,’ none of which the accused has been charged with.”
By dumping it all into the court record, Regan argued, prosecutors were able to circumvent a long-standing gag order imposed in the case and turn the “trial into a five-ring circus.”
Regan asked Foil to consider imposing sanctions against the Attorney General’s Office “for engaging in this character assassination.”
Along with allegations concerning pornography, the attorney general’s filing also makes the claim that Peralta played a part in suspending Schaefer while she worked for the parish in 2013; that he had “over 300” sexually explicit photos of Schaefer that he considered posting online or otherwise using against her; and that a handwritten note was found in Peralta’s home on which he allegedly scrawled, “Your (sic) going to be a rape victim.”
Peralta was indicted twice last year on separate charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty. He faces separate trials in the spring.
A grand jury in St. Bernard is still considering additional criminal charges.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.