Respected prosecutor alarmed over LSP handling of sex crime investigation
BATON ROUGE- For the first time since the WBRZ Investigative Unit broke stories about former West Baton Rouge Deputy Ben Arceneaux using his police unit and badge to get sexual favors, a Louisiana State Police report backs that up.
Respected prosecutor Prem Burns reviewed the investigative file and said it reeks of a cover-up.
The report was made public through a records request by WBRZ after the case ended with Arceneaux's guilty plea to a malfeasance charge on July 1.
The report notes a victim and her attorney came in for an interview. The victim said, "Dy Arceneaux activated his emergency lights" to pull her over on Highway 190. "Dy Arceneaux then opened her driver's side door and forced her to perform oral sex on him by threat of pulling her out of the car and restraining her... stated she performed oral sex on Dy Arceneaux... Dy Arceneaux continually attempted to place his right hand in her pants, but she kept pushing him away."
Despite the written report, state police said their audio/video equipment malfunctioned and asked to have the victim come back in for another interview. She declined. State police noted Arceneaux never came in for an interview.
State police's report concluded, "Based on the findings of this investigation, there is insufficient probable cause for LSP/CID to move forward with criminal charges against Deputy Ben Arceneaux."
Prem Burns said that is patently false.
"There's proof in the pudding," Burns said. "The fact that he entered a guilty plea to a felony says a lot about the veracity of this woman."
Burns said there was plenty of probable cause, too.
"They needed to determine if there was probable cause to go forward," Burns said. "There is more than probable cause based on this. Obviously, we know there was enough for a conviction."
Advocates for victims of sexual abuse are also alarmed. Racheal Hebert with STAR, a non-profit that helps victims of sexual crimes, said she's concerned about Arceneaux reoffending.
"I would think the public should be outraged by any sex crime," Hebert said. "Especially when it's committed by someone in law enforcement that are there to serve and protect us. It can put us in a state of unease."
Hebert said she would have liked to see Arceneaux register as a sex offender.
Following the initial report last year, three more women came forward to WBRZ alleging similar sexual misconduct by Arceneaux.
"When someone has clearly broken the law, especially with a sex crime, we would expect them to be prosecuted to the fullest extent," Hebert said. "Having this person register as a sex offender and making sure he doesn't have this access."
The investigation that was conducted initially by West Baton Rouge and followed up by state police is under the microscope as Burns said it resembles a cover-up.
"I'm very disappointed with state police," Burns said. "I'm very disappointed with what they did. But it also seems both agencies that were involved in the investigation bear responsibility. It's like they were working hand-in-glove to protect one of their own. That's the way it looks as an outsider who does not work in this jurisdiction but has worked in the justice system for four decades."
The WBRZ Investigative Unit asked state police for an interview or a statement. A spokesman referred all questions to the West Baton Rouge Parish district attorney.
As part of Arceneaux's plea agreement, he won't spend a minute in jail. Instead, he'll be on probation for the next two years.
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