Judge: Sorrento, Louisiana, and Ex-Police Chief Must Pay Legal Fees

January 24, 2017

A federal judge has awarded nearly $40,000 in fees to attorneys for a woman who accused a former Louisiana police chief of sexually assaulting her in his office while she was drunk and he was on duty.

The woman’s lawyers sought nearly $90,000 in fees, but U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ruled that $39,899 is reasonable compensation. Dick said there was evidence of overbilling and duplicative billing in records submitted by plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Dick awarded $50,000 in damages to the woman in August after ruling that the town of Sorrento and its former police chief, Earl Theriot, are liable for violating her constitutional rights.

During a trial in June for her civil lawsuit, the woman testified that Theriot forced her to perform sexual acts in his office after finding her drunk in public. Theriot’s attorneys claimed she initiated the “unconsummated” sexual encounter to avoid jail.

Dick, however, ruled that the woman was legally incapable of consenting to sex with Theriot given how drunk she was at the time of their Nov. 1, 2013, encounter inside the town’s police station. The judge, who heard the case without a jury, awarded the woman $15,000 in compensatory damages and $35,000 in punitive damages.

In 2014, Theriot was sentenced to two years of probation after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his sexual encounter with the woman.

Theriot served as the town’s police chief for 12 years. The plea deal for the criminal case required him to resign from his post in Sorrento, where sheriff’s deputies now patrol the town of roughly 1,500 residents.

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