Peralta protective-order request moved to St. Bernard

An Orleans Parish judge dismissed a request Wednesday by the wife of St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta for a permanent protective order, saying the matter should be left to the St. Bernard court where the estranged couple has filed for divorce.

In court documents, Sharon Schaefer Peralta has accused David Peralta of handcuffing, beating and raping her in their Meraux home in late October.

Each one petitioned courts in St. Bernard and Orleans parishes for restraining orders against the other. Court documents cited concerns of physical harm as divorce proceedings played out.

During a hearing Wednesday in Civil District Court, Sharon Peralta’s attorney, Vernon Thomas, said his client’s fears remain. “The problem is that she can’t go back into that parish, and she’s afraid to go back into that parish,” Thomas said, referring to St. Bernard.

Her request for a protective order indicated that Sharon Peralta now lives in New Orleans.

The couple married in 2012. David Peralta filed for divorce in late December.

Sharon Peralta was granted a temporary restraining order in Orleans Parish on Jan. 17 requiring her husband to stay at least 100 feet away from her. The order, which expired Wednesday, also banned him from abusing, harassing, threatening or contacting her.

But Civil Court Judge Regina Bartholomew said state law requires that the request for a permanent order be handled in the 34th Judicial District Court in Chalmette because that’s where the couple’s divorce proceedings are pending.

David Peralta’s petition for divorce contended that he was “free from fault” in the separation and alleged that he “fears for his safety and well-being.” He sought his own temporary restraining order, which was subsequently granted.

Sharon Peralta failed to appear in a Chalmette courtroom for a Jan. 24 hearing. Instead, she faxed a letter to Judge Robert Buckley saying she feared for her safety and could not appear in court until she could be provided more security for her protection. She also asked the judge to recuse himself due to a perceived person connection to her husband.

Since then, Buckley and the other four judges on the 34th JDC bench have all recused themselves from hearing the case. Valerie Willard, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Supreme Court, said Wednesday that an ad hoc judge likely will be appointed before a scheduled Friday hearing.

Both David and Sharon Peralta were present in Civil District Court for Wednesday’s hearing.

In recent weeks, St. Bernard Parish Council members have mostly avoided questions about the scandal, calling it a personal matter and stressing that no one has been arrested.

David Peralta also has refused to comment on his wife’s accusations. Last month, after she described the alleged attack in the request for a protective order, he issued a statement saying that parish policy prohibited him from commenting on open litigation, though he also described it as a “personal matter.” He previously called his wife’s allegations “baseless,” saying they resulted from a domestic dispute.

David Peralta’s attorney, Adele Faust, declined comment Wednesday after the hearing.

The New Orleans Advocate does not typically identify alleged victims of sexual violence or their relationship with the accused. But when the Louisiana State Police confirmed in October that they were investigating an allegation that Peralta had committed a sexual assault, Peralta put out a statement saying it was his wife who filed the complaint, which he maintained she subsequently withdrew.

The St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office turned over the investigation to State Police immediately after learning of the allegation. That investigation has since been completed.

While the results were turned over to St. Bernard Parish District Attorney Jack Rowley, he recused his office in late December, handing the case to state Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell. The Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday the case remains under review.

In a recent interview with Sharon Peralta that aired on WVUE-TV, she provided the station with a copy of a medical report from Interim LSU Public Hospital in New Orleans, where she was examined after the October incident.

The station reported that Sharon Peralta suffered a cervical strain or sprained neck, and that her neck was reddened. The medical report, the station’s story said, also detailed “signs of injury around the vagina,” and noted a vaginal tear.

In a letter, Faust told the station that it was “unfortunate that Sharon Schaefer Peralta has chosen to continue to disseminate to the media untrue allegations concerning her husband.” Faust said the Peraltas quickly reconciled after the initial accusation in October, even going on a trip to Orlando, Fla., the next month.