Ville Platte residents sue police department over illegal holds - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Ville Platte residents sue police department over illegal holds central to federal investigation

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Three Ville Platte residents, who allege they were subjected to unconstitutional police practices at the heart of a U.S. Justice Department investigation, have filed a federal lawsuit against the city and its police department.

According to the suit, Shawanna Deville, Shaquille Freeman and Lil John O'Neal were involuntarily detained as witnesses during a 2014 homicide investigation, held in a cell and restricted from contacting anyone on the outside — all without being arrested or accused of a crime.

Deville, Freeman and O'Neal were held as potential witnesses in the 2014 shooting death of Ann Nguyen inside her Ville Platte convenience store, according to the lawsuit and court records for the trial in Nguyen's killing.

All three claim they were held in cells during the detainment. Deville also told KATC TV-3 last month she was strip-searched and forced to sleep overnight in a cell with other prisoners, claims she also brought forth in the lawsuit.

The suit lists as defendants the Ville Platte Police Department, Police Chief Neal Lartigue and the unnamed, unnumbered officers who allegedly participated in the detainment. It was filed in Louisiana's U.S. Western District Court under U.S.C. Section 1983, which allows civil rights deprivation claims for acts perpetrated under color of law.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages for "physical pain, humiliation and mental and emotional anguish," according to the document.

Jacob Fusilier, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, suggests the litigation could reach class-action status, as the DOJ report mentioned an estimated 900 people who were subject to the treatment.

Although civil rights claims generally must be filed within one year of the alleged act, Fusilier told KATC on Tuesday that Deville, Freeman and O'Neal were advised by federal investigators against speaking out about the incidents until the report was completed. He said that could allow the suit to move forward and claims as much in the lawsuit.

"Plaintiffs are lacking sophistication and education therefore felt that they were ordered by people cloaked with the authority of law" against discussing the events, the lawsuit states.

Meanwhile, an Evangeline Parish judge recently denied a motion for a new trial for the man convicted in Nguyen's killing.

Last month, Sonny Chapman, the chief public defender in Evangeline Parish's 13th Judicial District, sought a new trial to determine whether any evidence gleaned during the Deville's illegal detainment led to the first-degree murder conviction of his client, Samuel Anderson, who confessed to Nguyen's death and carried the murder weapon at the time of his arrest.

Judge Chuck West denied the request, as Deville's statements were not used during the trial.

Motions for new trials must also be filed prior to sentencing.

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