Man says DNA proved innocence
A Jackson man has filed a federal lawsuit against East Feliciana Parish Sheriff Talmadge Bunch claiming he was wrongly arrested last year for an alleged rape, without any probable cause.
George Arthur Sheppard, 52, claims in the lawsuit that he was held in jail for six months following his April 2012 arrest for simple rape until state District Judge George Ware ruled there was no probable cause for a prosecution during a hearing in August of that year.
Sheppard had voluntarily submitted a DNA sample which prosecutors confirmed did not match anything taken from within the victim or in a rape kit prepared after the alleged rape.
Sheppard is claiming in the lawsuit that his rights were violated and the Sheriff’s Office falsely arrested and imprisoned him.
Sheppard couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday and his attorney, Wendell C. Woods, did not return two calls seeking comment.
Sheriff’s Office Detective Don McKey said his office is aware of the lawsuit but could not comment.
The alleged rape occurred on March 10, 2012, and involved a victim who was 18 and “mentally challenged,” according to the arrest warrant.
Sheppard was arrested a month later, April 18, and charged June 8.
Shepherd said in the lawsuit that he told sheriff’s detectives when they interviewed him two days after the alleged rape he did not commit the rape and never had sex with the victim.
Sheppard then voluntarily gave a DNA sample to detectives, according to the lawsuit.
A preliminary hearing was held Oct. 16, 2012, in front of Ware and no mention was made of a match of Sheppard’s DNA, according to the lawsuit.
District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla confirmed Wednesday that Sheppard’s DNA did not match anything in the rape kit.
During the preliminary hearing, Sheriff’s Office Detective Kevin Garig, also named as a defendant in the suit, testified there was no direct statement by the victim that she was raped, according to the suit.
Although the victim was in the courtroom during the hearing, she was not called to testify.
Garig also testified he had to use leading yes or no questions to get the victim to make a statement sufficient for grounds to arrest Sheppard, the lawsuit states.
Sheppard alleges in the lawsuit the victim didn’t understand the questions.
Ware ruled there was no “adequate evidence to establish probable cause.”
Sheppard’s bond was dropped and he was released from jail.
D’Aquilla said his office dropped the simple rape charge against Sheppard but he was ordered to pay court costs.
Sheppard was supposed to appear in court Aug 6. to pay or answer the court cost issue. Sheppard did not appear in court or pay and Ware issued a bench warrant for Sheppard, D’Aquilla said.
According to the lawsuit, Sheppard was in school at the time of the arrest and was unable to complete his studies.
Another consequence of the arrest, Sheppard said in the lawsuit, was he couldn’t find a job because of suspicion he had committed a rape.