Former Livingston Parish sheriff’s lieutenant Dennis Perkins will seek to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid going to trial, his attorney said in court.
Jarrett Ambeau, Dennis Perkins’ attorney, made the announcement near the end of a 20-minute hearing Friday, saying his client plans to seek a plea deal “to spare the process of all of us going to trial.”
The announcement was made during a hearing to determine if Dennis Perkins and his wife, Cynthia Perkins, would be tried separately in a case that has rocked Livingston Parish and the state since the two were arrested in October 2019.
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 is prosecuting the case.
Last month, Dennis Perkins’ lawyer asked a judge to try him separately from his wife, arguing he would be “unduly prejudiced” by his wife’s testimony. The request stems from the court’s decision to allow certain evidence to be presented to only Cynthia Perkins, while other evidence can be presented only to Dennis Perkins, according to records.
Cynthia Perkins, a former middle school teacher at Westside Junior High, filed for divorce days after the two were indicted, alleging Dennis Perkins had made “sufficient threats that render her fearful of (him).”
Because the couple was jointly indicted, they would be tried together unless a judge granted a severance. A defendant is not entitled to a severance by right, but the trial court may sever “if the interests of justice require doing so,” Dennis Perkins’ attorney wrote.
On Friday, Ambeau argued that the two should be tried separately, saying Cynthia Perkins plans to “point the finger” at his client as the instigator behind the alleged crimes.
“In the interests of justice, we don’t believe these two can be tried together,” Ambeau said in court.
In documents filed the morning of the hearing, the Attorney General’s office said the severance request should be denied because the defendant is not entitled to a severance and hasn’t shown justifiable reasons for one.
Prosecutors also cited the magnitude of the case — “substantial” amount of documentary evidence and witnesses, the “sensitive and difficult nature” of testimony for some witnesses, and required judicial resources — as a reason to deny the request.
During Friday’s hearing, prosecutors said that since neither is likely to testify in court, the defense’s claim of detrimental testimony from Cynthia against Dennis is not likely to happen. Prosecutors also said much of the evidence and witnesses involved pertain to the same crimes and would put extra burden on the courts to separate the cases.
“At the end of the day, it is the defense’s burden to prove that severance is required,” prosecutors said in court.
Near the end of the hearing, Judge Erika Sledge said she would issue a ruling on the separation request sometime next week, noting that she had only received the state’s opposition to a severance that morning.
Ambeau also said he plans to request a continuance for the trial — something prosecutors quickly said the state “would oppose,” adding that the trial has already been “pushed back a year.”
A hearing on that motion will be held on June 25.
Dennis and Cynthia Perkins, who were not physically present during Friday’s hearing but appeared separately via Zoom, are set to go on trial together July 12.
“We look forward to getting justice for the victims,” said a statement from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office following the hearing.
Earlier this week, the trial of Melanie Curtin, the third suspect arrested in connection to the case, was pushed toward the end of the year after prosecutors informed the defense they discovered new evidence.
Jury selection was set to begin Tuesday, June 1, but the judge agreed to the delay to allow Curtin’s defense time to review potential new evidence that recently came to light.
Curtin’s trial will now begin Nov. 29, 2021.