The defendant in a high-profile sex crimes case involving a former Livingston Parish sheriff’s lieutenant exited the courtroom in tears once the jury went into deliberations to decide her fate.
Melanie Curtin, 42, broke into sobs once court went into recess Friday morning, having to be consoled by two others as she walked out of the courtroom.
Curtin is accused of aggravated rape and video voyeurism of sexual intercourse – both felonies – stemming from an incident that took place in November 2014.
The most serious charge, aggravated rape, carries a lifetime prison sentence without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension. However, jurors could convict her of a lesser rape charge that would result in a lesser sentence.
The 12-person jury began deliberations at 10:45 a.m. Friday.
Curtin’s trial is part of a larger case being built against Dennis Perkins, a former lieutenant in the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, and his ex-wife Cynthia Perkins, a former middle school teacher. The case against Dennis and Cynthia Perkins, who face a combined 150 charges, has drawn much attention since their arrests in October 2019.
Curtin became implicated in the matter after investigators from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office found a video of what appeared to be a rape during their search of Dennis Perkins’ home after his arrest. The 18-minute video at the center of the case allegedly depicts the victim, who appears to be unconscious with a blanket over her head, being raped by both Perkins and Curtin, who took turns recording the assault with a cell phone.
Curtin was arrested in New Orleans in February 2020 once investigators identified her as the woman Perkins allegedly videotaped the rape with.
Following two days of testimony from seven witnesses, including the victim, prosecutors from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office and Curtin’s defense presented their closing arguments on Friday.
Curtin ultimately declined to take the stand.
Throughout their case, prosecutors have described Curtin as a willing participant in the “coordinated rape,” saying she was “in complete control of herself, both mentally and physically.” They doubled-down on that stance Friday and rejected Curtin’s claim that she was also a victim of Dennis Perkins.
Prosecutor Erica McLellan noted Curtin’s “fluid, coordinated, and controlled” movements in the video, which jurors watched in full early in the trial. McLellan said the defense has presented no evidence Curtin was drugged and incoherent during the incident – something the defense has repeatedly suggested – and that she was never moved or directed by Dennis Perkins in the video.
“Someone affected by drugs couldn’t operate at the level Melanie Curtin did,” McLellan said.
McLellan also referenced the affair Curtin and Perkins had for around four years and that they regularly engaged in “risky sexual behavior,” such as at a car wash and in a dressing room. She also mentioned the emotional testimony of the victim, who said she “wanted to literally die” upon learning of the alleged rape and video recording of it.
“Melanie Curtin is not the victim in this case,” McLellan said.
John McLindon, Curtin’s defense attorney, shot that notion down and described Curtin as one of many victims of Dennis Perkins, not an alleged accomplice. He noted that of the more than 100 secret files Perkins kept of different women, there was also one of Curtin.
“If she was his partner in crime, why did he keep a file on her?” McLindon posed to the jury.
McLindon used a powerpoint presentation at various points in his closing arguments to highlight certain phrases that were repeated during the trial.
The first was “I missed it,” a phrase spoken on the first day of questioning by one of the investigators working the case. Gene Guidry made the comment Wednesday when McLindon asked why he never questioned the victim during one of their initial interviews, during which he played a portion of the video that led the victim to say of Curtin: “Something is wrong with her.”
McLindon has suggested that comment points to Curtin being unknowingly drugged, which resulted in her participation in the video. He played audio of the interview Friday, giving jurors another chance to hear the victim’s comment of something appearing wrong with Curtin as well as Guidry’s lack of response. He also highlighted the phrase in his slideshow.
“There is something wrong with her (Curtin), and there’s something wrong with this case,” McLindon said.
McLindon also referenced testimony from the expert psychiatrist who said it is possible that Curtin’s actions in the video could have been those of a drugged person. Though there is no proof Curtin was drugged, the defense has suggested it happened given Dennis Perkins’ familiarity with drugs – he worked as a narcotics agent – and investigators stating Dennis Perkins drugged “multiple women on multiple occasions,” another highlighted phrase.
“We don’t know what Dennis Perkins gave those girls, but he knew what he was doing,” McLindon said.
Prosecutor Barry Milligan recalled the words of a toxicology expert who testified that she never saw signs of intoxicated behavior from Curtin in the video. He also noted the differences shown in the video between the victim, who appeared unconscious, and Curtin, who had “precise and coordinated movements.”
“Every second of that video tells you she (Curtin) was in complete control of herself, physically and mentally,” Milligan said. “She knew what she was doing.”
“They would have you believe the defendant was the victim,” Milligan said. “There was one victim in this video, and it was not Melanie Curtin.”