Posted: Feb 7, 2014 9:20 AM by Rob Krieger & AE Stevenson
Updated: Feb 7, 2014 6:50 PM
SORRENTO - The U.S. Attorney's Office announced Friday that federal charges had been filed against Sorrento's police chief for lying to the FBI during a sexual assault investigation.
Earl Theriot resigned from his position as chief of police Friday before word of the accusations were made public.
The WBRZ News 2 Investigative Unit uncovered allegations by a woman who claimed Theriot detained her during a public intoxication call on Nov. 1, and instead of arresting her, took her to his office and sexually assaulted her. The woman filed a federal lawsuit against Theriot, and a criminal investigation was launched.
A bill of information filed by the U. S. Attorney's Office on Wednesday said Theriot lied to FBI investigators twice, once on Jan. 2 and once on Jan. 9, denying he'd ever been alone with the woman or sexually assaulted her.
"We're happy to see that the chief is no longer going to be patrolling, we felt that he was a threat to the general public and that was my client's greatest concern, was that this might happen to someone else, so all in all we're pleased today," said Tregg Wilson, the attorney for the woman who filed the suit.
Sorrento Mayor Mike Lambert said Friday that Theriot's decision to step down was the right choice.
"He made a decision for what's best for him, his family, and the town of Sorrento," Lambert said.
The town police force was seriously cut back after they lost their insurance coverage late last year. Sheriff's deputies are currently patrolling the town at night and on the weekends, while Theriot and an assistant chief were answering calls during the day.
"I think we're gonna have to decide among the council, we'll have to make a final decision, whether they're going to continue to look for quotes," said Lambert, concerning the town's fruitless search for liability coverage.
Even amid the sexual allegations and charges that Theriot lied to the FBI, some people in town are still finding the claims hard to swallow.
"I know Early personally, he's kin, and Earl is good man, Earl is a very good man, he'd bend over backward to help you," said Lionel Melancon, Jr., a former councilman for Sorrento. "It's hard to believe for knowing him as long as I've been knowing him."
Theriot is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate on charges of making false statements Monday, Feb. 10.