Lawsuit claims booking mixup deprived inmate of civil rights

A young man who was accused of raping an 11-year-old girl in Baker was wrongfully booked as an adult last year, even though he was a juvenile at the time of the alleged crime, a civil rights lawsuit claims.

The plaintiff, Anthony D. Allen, was held more than four months in Parish Prison without a defense attorney before a judge corrected the error and transferred the case to juvenile court, the lawsuit says.

Prosecutors could not establish probable cause for rape and instead pursued a lesser charge of indecent behavior with a juvenile, said Allen’s attorney, Ronald S. Haley Jr.

Haley contends the authorities “at best” miscalculated Allen’s age when he was arrested. A police report lists Allen’s correct birthdate, but fails to note that he was about two months from turning 17 when the alleged sexual encounter occurred.

Prosecutors could have filed a motion to have Allen tried as an adult due to the severity of the alleged crime. But the proceedings did not reach that point, Haley said, because the rape charge was not substantiated.

“The ball was dropped and this kid suffered because of it,” Haley said in a phone interview. “He was a defendant in a very serious crime. However, he’s afforded certain rights. There’s a reason there’s an adult system and a juvenile system.”

The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, names as defendants Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux. Knaps said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the lawsuit but added, “If we did do something wrong, we will take the proper steps to correct it or deal with it.”

A spokeswoman for Gautreaux did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The lawsuit claims the Sheriff’s Office “has a duty and responsibility to appropriately book inmates brought into their facility.”

Allen, who is now 19, was booked Oct. 9, 2012, on one count of aggravated rape. He allegedly had sex with the girl in May 2011. The girl’s parents alerted police in August 2011 after they found out, according to a police report.

The unusual amount of time that elapsed between the alleged offense and Allen’s arrest — nearly a year and a half — may have contributed to the confusion over his age, Haley said. Allen was, in fact, an adult when he was finally arrested.

But if Allen had been booked appropriately into the East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Detention Center, Haley said, he would have been afforded several rights he was deprived of in the adult jail. He had been held in Parish Prison on a $75,000 bond his family could not afford.

“Anytime you’re dealing with someone’s civil rights, especially a child’s rights, I think everyone needs to pay attention because it could be their child,” Haley said.