Deal awards $100K over officer's 'deviant' photos of women

By Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 15, 2017 at 12:08 p.m.

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A settlement awards $100,000 to plaintiffs in a lawsuit that accused a Louisiana police officer of forcing two women to expose their breasts so he could photograph them during a roadside encounter, according to a document The Associated Press obtained Wednesday.

The amount hasn't been disclosed in publicly accessible court filings; the AP obtained the document through a public records request.

The deal resolves a federal lawsuit that claimed Ville Platte police officer Larry Paul Fontenot threatened the women with arrest and with pepper spray if they didn't comply with his "deviant sexual demands." The suit also claims Fontenot showed his photographs of the women to other officers shortly after the August 2015 encounter.

The two women and a man who was with them that night sued the city, its police chief and Fontenot, who was arrested on extortion and video voyeurism charges and resigned from the police department. His trial on the criminal charges is set for May.

"He never returned to work after that incident," Ville Platte Police Chief Neal Lartigue said during an interview in January.

Heading home from a bar in the early-morning hours of Aug. 15, 2015, the three plaintiffs encountered Fontenot after they pulled over to fix a flat tire. Their lawsuit said Fontenot took pictures of the women's backsides, made lewd comments and demanded that they expose themselves. The women initially ignored that command but complied after he threatened to summon a State Police trooper to arrest one of them for drunken driving, the suit says.

The suit claims it was a "frequent practice" for Fontenot to photograph women he had stopped while on duty. One of the women filed a complaint with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office after another officer approached her and said her photographs were being circulated and discussed within the police department, according to the suit.

The police force in Ville Platte, a city in Evangeline Parish with roughly 7,000 residents, has been the focus of other civil rights complaints.

A Justice Department investigation recently concluded that the Ville Platte Police Department and Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office routinely used unconstitutional "investigative holds" to arrest and jail hundreds of people for questioning during criminal investigations. These people often were strip-searched, held in cells without beds, toilets or showers and detained for at least three days without getting a chance to talk to loved ones or contest their arrests, the Justice Department said.

Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine and plaintiffs' attorney Andre Toce didn't immediately respond to calls seeking comment Wednesday.

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Michael Kunzelman


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