Illegal detainment subject of another lawsuit in Evangeline Pari - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Illegal detainment subject of another lawsuit in Evangeline Parish

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The US Justice Department / Courtesy of MGN Online The US Justice Department / Courtesy of MGN Online

Four more people are taking legal action in Evangeline Parish after federal investigators found officers had been illegally detaining people there for decades.

Citing the findings of the U.S. Justice Department's recent report, the four plaintiffs seek damages for separate incidents in which they say they were illegally detained without probable cause or a criminal charge:

  • Christopher Dugas, of Lafayette, claims he was arrested in 2013 by a Ville Platte police officer and jailed for 4-5 months after being accused of taking a cell phone picture of a minor. Dugas claims he was held for months, where family members of the minor beat him, even after he proved to police there was no cell phone on the picture.
  • Timothy Johnson, of Mamou, alleges he was arrested by a Ville Platte police officer in 2013 and held for 11 days without being charged on accusations he stole his roommate's TV. He claims that in an unrelated arrest, he was held for three days without being charged.
  • Sharonna Tezeno, of Mamou, claims her possessions were seized, she was detained and she was held in a jail cell for more than 48 hours after Ville Platte police officers interrogated her in the incident, for which she was not charged.
  • Nichole Fontenot, of Ville Platte, claims Evangeline Parish Sheriff's deputies arrested and held her for 70 days without a charge after the officers went to her home to arrest her roommate.

Named as defendants in the federal lawsuit, filed in Louisiana's U.S. Western District Court, are the City of Ville Platte, the Ville Platte Police Department, Evangeline Parish and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office, also including up 50 unnamed officers who participated in the events and up to 50 unnamed supervisors who oversaw the activities.

The four plaintiffs are seeking class-action status and a jury trial.

Three out-of-town firms are representing the group: Cornish Law, of New Orleans; Hach, Rose, Schirripa and Cheverie, of New York; and the Law Office of Conrad J. Benedetto, of Philadelphia.

The Justice Department released its report Dec. 19, finding that for decades, law enforcement in the city and parish unconstitutionally detained people without probable cause, and the attorneys heavily cite the document in their suit.

It's the second filed since the December report was released. Read about the other lawsuit here.

Justice Department officials met with Evangeline Parish residents last week to discuss moving forward with reforms for both law enforcement agencies. Read about that here.

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