Luling man faces 140 years in jail for sex crime
Crimes were committed against 8-year-old daughter
The man, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of the victim, could receive a maximum of 143 and a half years in prison when Judge Lauren Lemmon sentences him for his crimes in June.
The case began in March 2012 when the perpetrator was arrested after his daughter accused him of sexually abusing her on at least four occasions. According to investigators, the father admitted he had a problem and said if his daughter told police he sexually assaulted her, she was telling the truth even though he had “no memory of it.”
The case was brought to trial by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office and handled by assistant attorney generals Blair Berthelot and David Weilbaecher after former St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel cited close ties between staff members and the perpetrator’s family in recusing his office.
Kim McElwee, St. Charles Parish assistant district attorney, praised both the Attorney General’s Office and the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office in their efforts.
“(Berthelot and Weilbaecher) did a tremendous job and the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office did a great job too,” she said.
Jury selection began in the trial last Monday and testimony from the perpetrator, the victim, several law enforcement officials and a nurse who treated the victim was heard on Tuesday. After deliberating for two and a half hours on Thursday, the jury came back later that night with a guilty verdict.
However, the jury reduced the charges from aggravated rape, which carried a mandatory life sentence, and aggravated incest, which carried a 25-to-99-year sentence.
Instead the man was convicted of sexual battery on a juvenile under 13, which carries a sentence from 25 to 99 years, and attempted aggravated incest, which has a minimum of no jail time to a maximum of 44 and a half years in prison.
Before sentencing takes place on June 18, representatives of the victim will be able to present a victim’s impact statement to the court and express her wishes for a sentence.
The case received attention last year after an outburst in court by Judge Michele Morel in an August hearing in which she berated the victim’s mother and a victim-witness coordinator for the Attorney General’s Office for allowing the then 10-year-old victim to attend court.
According to the court transcript Morel said, “Okay. Who brought her here? Okay. First of all, the child go outside. Are you the child? Go outside.”
The child was then escorted from the courtroom by a deputy.There is a law that makes it a crime to name underage victims of a sex crime and Berthelot, who served as lead prosecutor, said Morel did just that by singling the girl out in open court.
Following the hearing, Berthelot asked that Morel step down as the judge in the case. After first refusing, Morel eventually stepped aside citing threats to her family, at which point Lemmon took over the case.
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