BATON ROUGE – A federal judge for the Middle District of Louisiana last week ruled that the former police chief of Sorrento violated a woman's civil rights when he sexually assaulted her while she was intoxicated.
The town in Ascension Parish received a 911 call on Nov. 1, 2013 of an intoxicated female who was loitering outside of a store near Louisiana 22. Then-Police Chief Earl Theriot Jr. took the woman into custody, allegedly declaring it his “lucky day.” He then allegedly proceeded to purchase her alcohol at a convenience store and grope her chest in the passenger seat of his car before taking her to the police station. There, according to court documents, he took the woman to his office and forced her to perform oral sex on him or else be arrested.
Theriot resigned in February 2014 after pleading guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the incident. The bureau caught him by having the woman wear a recording device while answering one of his calls. He was then put on probation for two years in September 2014.
The woman sued Theriot for $500,000, saying he repeatedly tried to contact her after the incident, causing her great emotional suffering, according to court documents.
Theriot pleaded the Fifth during a one-day bench trial overseen by U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick last week in the civil suit. Dick withheld ruling on monetary damages for the woman, but she did rule that there was inappropriate sexual contact between the two, that the woman was impaired and therefore not capable of offering consent, and that Theriot should have been considerate of her incapacitation. Lastly, Dick ruled that Theriot violated his sworn duty to serve and protect when he groped the woman.
“We are shocked and angered by Earl Theriot Jr.’s abuse of his power and dismayed that the victim in this case, as in countless others, has had to endure repeated victimization over an extended period of time,” Micheala Denny of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LAFASA), told the Louisiana Record.
LAFASA works to help sexual assault victims suffering from physical and emotional trauma, and to prevent sexual violence in Louisiana.
“Theriot violated the victim’s rights, their trust in the system that was supposed to protect them; and he has betrayed the community that entrusted him to be a helper and servant to the public,” Denny said.
She added that Theriot has not only done serious damage to the victim -- who tried to kill herself after the incident -- but also to sexual assault survivors everywhere. He’s demonstrated that “insidious violence lurks even when they are supposed to be in the safe harbor of protectors,” she said.
Tregg Wilson, the victim’s lead lawyer in the suit, declined to comment on this story.