Peralta says he was fulfilling estranged wife’s ‘fantasy’

St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta, embroiled in a nasty divorce that has played out in public over the past five months, this week denied his wife’s accusations that he brutally raped her last year, contending instead that the couple occasionally engaged in “bondage” and that he was simply fulfilling his wife’s “rape fantasy” that morning.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the rape allegation, Peralta said the couple had been experiencing marital problems in the weeks leading up to the Oct. 27 incident, in which his now-estranged wife alleges that he handcuffed, beat and raped her in their Meraux home. He has not been charged.

Peralta insisted during a two-hour interview in his Chalmette office Wednesday that he did not rape his wife, Sharon Schaefer Peralta, whom he dated for six years before they were married in March 2012. Instead, he said, the couple sometimes had “rough sex,” which he claimed was his wife’s desire.

“It was her birthday. That’s what she wanted. She asked for it,” David Peralta said.

He added: “She enjoyed rough sex. She enjoyed fantasy rape. The game had been played many times.”

In a separate interview Friday in her attorney’s office, Sharon Peralta, who works as a paralegal for the parish, flatly denied that she asked her husband to “rape” her as part of a sexual game. “It was my birthday, and we weren’t speaking,” she said. “I didn’t ask for it.”

David Peralta’s attorney, Adele Faust, has previously accused Sharon Peralta of fabricating the rape accusation and claimed, after a hearing in 34th Judicial District Court in St. Bernard last month, that the incident was “premeditated.” As evidence, Faust gave reporters a copy of a lease agreement that Sharon Peralta signed a month before the incident for an apartment in Violet, which Faust claimed was a landing pad to use after she accused her husband of rape.

Sharon Peralta said she simply wanted to leave her husband.

“I was trying to get away from his abusive ways,” she said.

David Peralta approached The New Orleans Advocate to discuss the October incident, which he has previously declined to comment on, in advance of a Monday hearing in the ongoing divorce proceedings. He briefly broke down in tears several times during the interview, in which he said he still loves his estranged wife but also believes that her allegations have hurt the parish’s reputation.

“She’s brought a lot of negativity to this community, and it’s unfair,” he said. “I don’t think most people believe her, I really don’t. I think the vast majority of people, I think, in the beginning, there were some questions. I don’t think that many people believe her any longer.”

Both David and Sharon Peralta acknowledged in separate interviews that they occasionally engaged in sexual role-playing that included elements of bondage.

A few years into their relationship, David Peralta said, his wife expressed her “rape fantasies” during a card game where the winner got to choose the night’s activities.

However, she claims it was he who would push sexual role playing, growing frustrated with her perceived lack of creativity.

“He knew I wasn’t into it. He would get angry with me because I wouldn’t come up with ideas,” she said.

David Peralta said that while some might find his frank talk distasteful, what he did was not rape. He said he feels the need to defend himself, especially after his wife went public with her version of the story.

“I’m OK with it,” he said. “It’s behind closed doors; it’s private. I mean, I don’t think anyone has pure vanilla sex anymore. You know, maybe this is more of an extreme than some people want to hear, to talk about, but you know, that’s what she wanted. Everybody’s got their own thing that they like to do. It wasn’t harmful. It didn’t involve anybody but she and I.”

But Sharon Peralta painted a different picture, one in which she reluctantly tried to indulge her husband’s desires when possible. She never asked him to “rape” her, she said, and at the time of the incident, their relationship was in tatters.

“Why would I want to be raped?” she asked. “Who wants to be raped?”

“I didn’t ask for it. We weren’t speaking. I wanted nothing to do with him,” she added about the October incident.

In an interview that aired last month on WVUE-TV, Sharon Peralta provided photos and medical documents that detailed injuries allegedly sustained during the rape. A report from Interim LSU Hospital, provided by her attorney, Vernon Thomas, detailed “signs of injury around the vagina” and noted a vaginal tear.

Additional photos show a room where David Peralta allegedly tied her up, with a rope dangling from the ceiling. She said Friday that he handcuffed her, then tied her hands to the rope before raping her.

David Peralta offered the same basic summary, though he described the sex as “rough” rather than violent, and insisted he was catering to his wife’s wishes.

“I would not say violent at all. No marks. No bruising. No punching,” he said. “She liked to be bound. It was more of a bondage thing than anything else. That’s what she liked.”

David Peralta said he was not surprised by the hospital’s findings.

He said the couple had engaged in similar sexual activity “occasionally, I’d say a dozen times over the course of two or three years. I will tell you this: It was always at her request.”

Afterward, David Peralta said, he was surprised when his wife became angry. “She wound up leaving, and I can’t really tell you why. Everything was fine. She later told people that she was angry with me after the event because I got up after having sexual relations, I basically got up too quickly,” he said. “We didn’t cuddle, and she was angry about that and she left.”

Later that night, after Sharon Peralta reported the alleged rape to authorities, State Police executed a search warrant at their home.

“I cooperated 100 percent,” David Peralta said. “The State Police were very professional. I had no problem answering all their questions.”

When the officers first told him they were investigating an allegation of rape, David Peralta said he was dumbfounded. “The only thing in my mind, at that point, was: ‘Did somebody politically set up some 14- or 15- or 16-year-old girl to make a complaint against me?’ ” he said.

“That’s what I thought, and I said, ‘Do you have a search warrant?’ ... He gave it to me, and I saw highlighted: aggravated rape. As I read down, I saw the victim: Sharon Peralta.”

Sharon Peralta spent that night at a daughter’s house but reported to work the next morning. Days later, David Peralta announced that his wife had attempted to withdraw her rape complaint.

“Today, my wife Sharon informed Louisiana State Police in a video statement that she has decided to drop all charges stemming from a domestic disagreement,” David Peralta said in a prepared statement at the time. “It is regrettable that law enforcement officials were summoned into this personal dispute. Sharon and I are sorry that this matter has escalated beyond a private matter.”

He had previously called the allegation “baseless” and said it stemmed from a domestic dispute.

Sharon Peralta said she was coerced into giving the statement, saying David Peralta threatened her and forced her to sign it.

He denies that claim. The couple spent the rest of the day together at the zoo, he said.

The Peraltas also offer differing views of their early years together. They started dating about six years before getting married, when David Peralta was serving as the parish’s chief administrative officer under former parish President Craig Taffaro.

“I walked in, I saw her, and I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. It was immediate,” he said.

They had lunch about two weeks later. “I was dating several girls at that period of time. She and I wound up going to lunch one day,” he said. “I never saw one of the girls again; she was the only person. We had a wonderful relationship.”

He said she moved in about eight months after they met.

But Sharon Peralta, in a complaint filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleged that David Peralta hung his position as a parish leader over her head in exchange for sexual favors.

Over the years, David Peralta said, he took photographs of his wife as they engaged in bondage and other fringe sexual behaviors, which he hopes will support his contention that the October incident wasn’t a one-time thing.

“I was concerned, because I guess the policeman came out in me a little bit,” he said. “What about if she said something?”

The State Police investigation into the matter has been completed. St. Bernard Parish District Attorney Jack Rowley recused his office in late December, handing the case to state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office.

David Peralta said he turned the bondage photographs over to Caldwell’s office “to show them that this was not an unusual occurrence.”

Peralta has already declared that he will run for re-election next year. He said he knows the rape allegations will hurt him — as might the stigma associated with the unusual sexual practices he has decided to discuss publicly. But he said he’s OK with that.

“I’m not a Puritan, you know?” he said. “Different people like different things. Is this a little embarrassing? Sure, but I guess I’ve gotten to the point now where I’ve got to clear it. She’s put out all this other stuff — what difference does it make at this point?”