VILLE PLATTE — A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court Western District of Louisiana against the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Ville Platte Police Department alleges that the plaintiffs experienced illegal investigative holds and a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.

The lawsuit was filed on March 1 for plaintiffs Christopher Dugas, Timothy Johnson, Sharonna Tezano and Nichole Fontenot, according to a report by Ville Platte Today. Representing the plaintiffs are attorneys with Hach Rose Schirripa and Cheverie LLP of New York City, the Law Office of Conrad Benedetto of Philadelphia, and Cornish Law LLC of New Orleans.

The U.S. Department of Justice previously found that the VPPD regularly arrested and held people in jail without a warrant or probable cause.

“We believe the VPPD and EPSO overstepped their bounds and did what the DOJ report said — that they regularly engaged in investigative holds and unconstitutional arrests,” Frank R. Schirripa, a partner with Hach Rose Schirripa and Cheverie LLP, told the Louisiana Record.

According to the complaint, Dugas, of Lafayette, alleged that he was accused of taking a picture of a minor with his cell phone and arrested by a VPPD officer and taken to jail.

The suit said that “no such picture of a minor was found on the device.

Dugas has alleged that he was then moved to the Evangeline Parish Jail “four or five months” after being detained by VPPD and “brought before a judge six months after being brought into the VPPD jail, he was offered a plea bargain for time served and a ‘pass without dismissal.’”

Johnson, of Mamou, alleged that he was arrested by VPPD in 2013 for stealing his roommate’s television.

“Johnson’s roommate informed the police that Johnson was sleeping at the time of the incident,” the complaint said, and was held for “11 days at the VPPD” with no charges being brought.

Tezeno, of Mamou, alleged in the complaint that, after witnessing a home invasion during which a firearm was discharged, she was arrested, questioned and stripped of possessions such as a cellphone and money.

The complaint alleged that Tezeno was “detained, uncharged, and forced to remain in a jail cell for over 48 hours,” but was not charged and did not appear in court for any violations from the incident.

“We seek redress on violation of their constitutional rights and injunctive relief of any investigative holds, as well as punitive damages,” Schirripa said.

“We hope that our efforts here are not taken lightly and the VPPD and EPSO quickly revert to end this practice of unconstitutional holds,” he added.

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