The defense for a former sheriff’s lieutenant accused of a slew of sexual abuse charges, including many involving children, has asked a judge to reconsider her decision to have him tried with his ex-wife, who is being charged with many of the same crimes.
Last week, Judge Erika Sledge ruled that Dennis Perkins, a former SWAT team commander with the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, and his ex-wife Cynthia Perkins, a former middle school teacher, would go to trial together.
Dennis and Cynthia Perkins face a total of 150 charges, including first-degree rape, producing child pornography, obscenity, video voyeurism, sexual battery of a child under 13 years old, and mingling harmful substances. Dennis Perkins is also accused of sexual abuse of an animal.
The couple has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, has argued that the couple worked together in the crimes. Because the couple was jointly indicted in 2019, they would be tried together unless a judge granted a severance.
In her decision last week, Sledge wrote that the defense did not state how the defenses will be antagonistic. She also noted that a review of their divorce proceedings “presents no details in regards to antagonistic defenses.”
In new filings this week, Dennis Perkins’ attorney Jarrett Ambeau asked Sledge to reconsider the motion to sever the defendants, arguing that “the interests of justice will be greater served” by allowing his client to be tried individually.
In the filings, Ambeau listed multiple reasons for a separate trial, including that:
-- Cynthia Perkins has claimed to be “fearful” of Dennis Perkins, though they haven’t spoken since the arrest in October 2019. Ambeau wrote that the “threats” must pertain to the time they were married.
-- Cynthia Perkins will assert at trial that Dennis Perkins “threatened her and/or forced her” to commit the acts they are accused of and also to keep quiet about committing them.
-- Cynthia Perkins will offer all of this evidence against Dennis Perkins through her counsel but will not have to be cross-examined since it’s likely she will assert her 5th Amendment right to remain silent, which Ambeau wrote will violate his client’s 6th Amendment right to confront the witness against him.
“If this court does not grant the defendant’s request, he will be unduly prejudiced against by the testimony of his co-defendant,” Ambeau wrote. “The granting of this motion to sever would further the interests of justice by protecting Mr. Perkins from the prejudice of a joint trial and assuring his constitutional rights to confront the witness against him at trial.”
In other related news, Ambeau also requested a continuance for the trial — something prosecutors recently said the state “would oppose.” Ambeau said his request stems from another trial set to start the same day that, as co-counsel, he must be present for.
Dennis and Cynthia Perkins are set to go to trial July 12, the same day Ambeau said he will be part of the defense team for “State vs Dulce Funez” in the 20th Judicial District Court.
That trial is expected to last two weeks and pull between 40 and 50 witnesses, Ambeau wrote.
“Undersigned counsel is requesting a continuance in this matter (involving Dennis and Cynthia Perkins), as the (State vs Dulce Funez case) has been ongoing for six years and the logistics of the multitude of persons involved in that trial make it impossible to continue,” he wrote.