Louisiana sheriff’s deputies planted drugs on a man and severely beat him in retaliation for a bar fight with another deputy, a federal lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, also accuses deputies from the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office of falsifying reports on Rickey Roche’s arrest to make his beating appear justified.
Roche, 49, was falsely imprisoned on drug charges for roughly seven years before a judge ordered his release last June, according to his lawsuit and his attorney, Clay Burgess.
The claims in Roche’s suit mirror testimony at Sheriff Louis Ackal’s criminal trial in 2016, when jurors acquitted the sheriff of charges that he ordered the beatings of parish jail prisoners and orchestrated a brazen cover-up.
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Ackal’s indictment said the sheriff never disciplined the deputies who allegedly beat Roche in 2010 in retaliation for assaulting one of their supervisors, Gerald Savoy.
Ackal, Savoy and three deputies who testified about Roche’s beating are named as defendants in his lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.
Ackal didn’t immediately respond Thursday to a telephone message left at his office.
Members of the sheriff’s narcotics unit kept Roche under surveillance for several months “for the sole purpose of arresting, abusing and maliciously prosecuting him” in retaliation for his altercation with Savoy, the suit says.
Two deputies, Wade Bergeron and Byron Lassalle, kicked, punched, choked and beat Roche with a baton and flashlight after a traffic stop, the suit claims. Lassalle testified at Ackal’s trial that Savoy ordered Roche’s beating with the sheriff’s blessing.
“Did you like the fact that the sheriff was giving you these instructions?” a prosecutor asked Lassalle, according to a transcript.
“Yeah,” he responded.
“Why?” the prosecutor asked.
“Just kind of had a sense of power, a sense of authority. And we all just got used to it,” said Lassalle. He also testified that he slapped Bergeron on the neck several times to make it appear that Roche had assaulted him.
The suit also accuses a third deputy, Jason Comeaux, of assaulting Roche after the stop. After another deputy struck Roche and splattered his blood on a wall, Comeaux told him to lick it off, according to Ackal’s indictment.
Bergeron, Lassalle and Comeaux were among several former deputies who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation and agreed to cooperate with federal authorities in their case against Ackal. Lassalle was sentenced to 4½ years in prison, Bergeron was sentenced to four years in prison and Comeaux was sentenced to more than three years.
Savoy was sentenced to more than seven years in prison after he pleaded guilty in 2016 to joining other officers in beating a prisoner.
Ackal, who is elected, remains in office, but his acquittal didn’t end his legal troubles. Lawsuits against Ackal, his office and its deputies have resulted in more than $2.8 million in payments to plaintiffs in 29 cases since the sheriff took office a decade ago, according to data obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.