Sorrento police chief target of sexual assault suit

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Sorrento Police Chief Earl Theriot. Show caption
Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Sorrento Police Chief Earl Theriot.

Allegations include forced sex acts, violation of rights

Sorrento Police Chief Earl Theriot Jr. supplied an already heavily intoxicated Ascension Parish woman alcohol and forced her to give him oral sex late last year while she was handcuffed for over four hours in his office, a new federal lawsuit alleges.

Filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, the suit claims Theriot initially propositioned the woman by saying he would not take her to jail if she would “help a friend out.”

“At all times while (the woman) was in custody, she was under the influence of alcohol and incapable of acting with reasonable and prudent judgment because she was severely impaired and Defendant Theriot not only knew this, but contributed to her impairment by purchasing and telling her to drink vodka,” the suit claims.

Since the Nov. 1 incident, the suit says Theriot has repeatedly called the woman in attempts to see her again, offering her money and alcohol, saying he wanted to return “the favor” and referring to the Nov. 1 incident as “a friend helping out a friend.”

The civil suit, which accuses Theriot of violating the woman’s Constitutional rights, alleges Theriot committed assault, sexual assault, battery, sexual battery and forcible sexual battery against her.

The suit names Theriot individually and as police chief of the town.

The suit seeks a jury trial, attorney’s fees and unspecified general, special and punitive damages, including the last because of Theriot’s “wanton and reckless” disregard for the woman’s rights and safety.

The name of the woman is being withheld because she claims to be the victim of a sex crime.

Her attorney, Tregg Wilson, said the incident has been reported to the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“There is an ongoing investigation,” he said.

Wilson said his client is an alcoholic and is undergoing treatment.

Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley and his spokesperson did not return calls for comment Friday evening.

Theriot had picked up the woman from a Sorrento grocery store near La. 22 and Airline Highway where her drunken and nonresponsive status at the store had prompted a 911 call about 12:53 p.m. Nov. 1. Theriot responded to the call, initially did not find her pulse but found one later once Acadian Ambulance arrived, the suit alleges.

Theriot groped the woman while she was in the front seat of his police car and then took her to another store to buy vodka, the suit claims. That’s when he propositioned her, gave her the vodka and then took her to the Police Department.

The suit also claims that before the forced oral sex occurred, Theriot had her handcuffed and restrained with her own belt under his desk while Theriot met with Mayor Mike Lambert in another part of his office.

Theriot had taken her into his office through a private entrance.

While Theriot spoke with the mayor, the woman found Theriot’s cellphone and called her boyfriend, saying she was being held against her will. The boyfriend headed to the Police Department but was told by then Officer Lyndell Aguillard that the woman was all right.

Theriot held the woman between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Nov. 1 and forced her to give him oral sex at various points, the suit alleges.

Theriot handed the woman over to her boyfriend at 5 p.m. Nov. 1, giving him her belt and a partially consumed bottle of vodka.

Her pants were unbuttoned and unzipped. She was still drunk and incoherent, having to be held up by her boyfriend, the suit alleges.

The suit is the second time in less than two months that Theriot has been accused in a federal lawsuit of harassing someone as chief.

In November, a Sorrento couple sued Theriot over what they alleged was a warrantless search of their home on Nov. 28, 2012, purportedly based on bogus zoning violation but that, they allege, was actually a political vendetta. Theriot believed the couple supported a then-police officer who had separately accused the chief of sexual harassment, that suit claimed.

In court papers filed Friday, Theriot has denied the allegations in that suit.

Theriot has also been embroiled in a battle with Lambert and several members of the Town Council about his office’s loss of professional liability insurance. Town officials say that cancelation happened, in part, over the number of claims against Theriot’s department.

The Sorrento officials called for Theriot to resign Monday, the same day the chief and his assistant started patrolling without insurance. Theriot refused to step down or stop patrolling, telling them that “they can stick it.”

The council is set to consider an insurance bid from a replacement company Tuesday.

The department’s old policy was canceled Nov. 19 — 18 days after the woman in the latest suit alleges the sexual assault occurred.

Theriot did not return calls Friday.

Mayor Lambert said the first he heard about the suit was from news accounts Friday evening.

“I’m not going to be able to talk about pending litigation,” he said.