Jeff Perilloux

Judge Jeff Perilloux

Louisiana State Police detectives sought a search warrant last month directed at a judge in St. John the Baptist Parish who is under investigation in two states for the alleged sexual assault of a teenage girl, according to a state law enforcement source and court records.

The girl, a friend of his daughter who was 15 at the time, told State Police that Jeff Perilloux slid his fingers inside her bathing suit bottom during a family trip to Destin, Florida, in July 2017. She said that when she backed away, Perilloux repeatedly begged her to let him proceed and told her not to be scared.

Two other girls who were on the Destin trip told investigators they were there when she emerged crying from the room where the incident took place and told them what she claimed Perilloux had done.

She also described two prior incidents that summer, in St. John Parish, in which she said Perilloux reached over her shoulder and touched her breasts while giving her a massage. In the second instance, she told investigators, Perilloux began "stroking" her breasts.

A friend who was in the room, receiving a massage from the girl at the same time, corroborated that a three-way massage took place but said she couldn’t see what Perilloux was doing because she was in front and the room was dark.

She told investigators that the other girl complained to her about Perilloux's actions soon afterward.

“Judge Perilloux categorically denies that any improper behavior occurred,” said attorney David Courcelle, who is representing the judge. “He’s been blindsided by this. No one from Louisiana State Police has contacted him.”

Courcelle said he was uncertain whether Florida authorities had contacted the judge.

Perilloux spoke with the L'Observateur newspaper, based in LaPlace, after the story broke Tuesday.

“I will spend every nickel that I have to defend myself and my family on these allegations," he told the paper. "I am not a wealthy man, but I will spend every penny that I have to defend (myself) from these allegations.”

He added: “My plan will be to serve the people who elected me to serve for as long as I am able to do so. I love this community. I will continue to do the job that the people have elected me to do until such time as I am no longer able to.”

State Police detectives have interviewed several friends of the judge's daughter. They also have scoured dozens of text messages between Perilloux and the victim, along with other affectionate texts he sent to other female friends of his children.

Two of those girls told authorities that Perilloux, who is 50, had done things to make them uncomfortable too, including patting them on the buttocks. One of the girls told State Police the judge was "creepy."

One of the girls told State Police the judge asked her: "Hey, are we cool about what happened the other day?" After that comment, as the trip was ending, she went to a nearby IHOP and told her parents, according to the law enforcement source. 

Perilloux said Tuesday he has not been served with any search warrant and was unaware of any State Police investigation into him. It's not clear whether State Police have managed to secure a warrant.

In their first attempt to do so, investigators approached the two other judges in the 40th Judicial District, Madeline Jasmine and J. Sterling Snowdy, on April 12, seeking a signature on the warrant. To obtain a search warrant, authorities must demonstrate to a judge probable cause that a crime has been committed. 

Both judges refused, noting that the "subject of the application is a member of the bench of this court," according to a recusal order signed by Jasmine and Snowdy.

"Because the judges … would feel uncomfortable signing such a warrant addressed to a colleague, and in the interest of avoiding the appearance of impropriety, it is necessary that an order of recusal issue in this matter," it said.

The state Supreme Court on the same day appointed retired Judge Jerome J. Barbera III to sit ad hoc over the search warrant request, according to an order from the high court. Reached at home, Barbera refused to discuss the matter.

"It's an open investigation. I can't talk about it," he said.

Authorities in Okaloosa County, Florida, where Destin is located, conducted a separate investigation last year into the alleged assault that was referred to prosecutors there. No charges have been filed, but the status of that inquiry was not immediately clear Tuesday.

Michelle Nicholson, a spokeswoman for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, told L'Observateur that investigators there were conferring with Florida prosecutors as well as officials in Louisiana.

“It is just a matter of some people making decisions on whether or not they will be pressing charges and what the general charges are going to be," she told the newspaper. She added, “The ball is not really in our court right now."

The Louisiana State Police investigation, meanwhile, has been referred to Attorney General Jeff Landry's office. Prosecutors with that office are preparing to present the allegations to a grand jury, Ruth Wisher, a spokeswoman for Landry, said Tuesday.

Perilloux served for 12 years as an assistant district attorney in St. John and was also the legal counsel for the parish government before being elected in December 2016 to a seat on the bench.

His family has been a fixture in the community for generations; his ancestors settled in St. John in 1748, according to L’Observateur.

Perilloux made headlines following a 2010 DWI arrest in which he threatened a State Police trooper and sought to use his reputation as a prosecutor to avoid going to jail.

"Do you know who I am?" Perilloux asked the trooper, according to a dash-cam video of the arrest. “I am the parish attorney. I'm not some lowlife."

That DWI charge has since been expunged, according to news accounts, and the state Attorney General’s Office — then headed by Buddy Caldwell — declined to pursue a charge of public intimidation related to Perilloux’s statements.

Perilloux later apologized for his behavior and said that he sobered up following his arrest. While running for judge in 2016, he addressed the 2010 arrest in an effort to distance himself from attack ads that accused one of his primary opponents of alcohol abuse.

“Neither I nor my campaign condones this type of negative, personal and political tactics,” he wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page.

Perilloux took 55 percent of the vote in a runoff, defeating defense attorney Nghana Lewis Gauff for the Division B judgeship.

Editor's note: This story was edited May 9 to reflect that a comment allegedly made by Jeff Perilloux was verbal rather than in a text.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.