ST. MARTINVILLE — Prosecutors have dismissed an armed robbery charge against a man who alleges he was set up by a Breaux Bridge police officer who later stepped down from the force amid questions about the investigation.
The former officer, Raymond J. Calais, 35, of Breaux Bridge, was sentenced to five years probation in June after pleading no contest to perjury and malfeasance for allegedly influencing the victim to identify Stephan M. Barker, 23, in a photo lineup.
A judge had blocked prosecutors from using the photo lineup as evidence, and charges were formally dismissed Monday against Barker, according to court records.
“He can attempt to move on with his life,” said attorney James Domengeaux, who is representing Barker in a federal lawsuit seeking damages from Calais and the city of Breaux Bridge for wrongful arrest.
Police had arrested Barker in the investigation of a September 2010 robbery at Russell’s Food Mart on Rees Street in Breaux Bridge.
Questions about the photo lineup arose last year, when Calais testified at a court hearing that the store manager had accidentally seen detectives interviewing Barker shortly before picking the man out of a photo lineup.
But the store manager, when questioned by the judge in the case, testified that Calais had brought him to the police station and instructed him to watch Barker being interrogated before showing the manager the photo lineup with Barker’s picture in it.
The photo lineup was the key evidence in the case, and without it, there was little to support the robbery charge, said St. Landry Parish District Attorney Earl Taylor.
The state Attorney General’s Office asked Taylor to handle the case after the local District Attorney’s Office requested an outside prosecutor.
“The only evidence was excluded by the court,” Taylor said Wednesday.
Calais had testified in a pre-trial hearing that the main reason that Barker was initially questioned in the case was because the store manager recalled the robber saying he was “desperate” for money.
Another officer had allegedly remembered Barker making a similar remark when complaining about his broken truck, according to testimony at a pre-trial hearing in the case.
Barker’s federal lawsuit had been put on hold pending the outcome of his criminal case, but will now move forward, Domengeaux said.
In sentencing Calais to probation earlier this year, 16th Judicial District Judge Paul deMahy said there was no evidence of a pattern of similar tactics by the former officer.
“Basically, he was overzealous in his investigation, and then when caught in the act of being overzealous, attempted to protect himself by lying,” the judge said, according to a transcript of the sentencing hearing.
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