La. deputies arrested after work release audit revealed 'disturbing' misconduct

A sheriff's office spokesman said the officers were work-release deputies who accepted bribes and transported an inmate during a night shift to a motel to have sex with a deputy

By Emma Kennedy
The Advocate

BATON ROUGE, La. — The West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office says it has arrested three deputies and is expecting to arrest a fourth after a probe of its troubled work-release program revealed a pattern of bribes and other misconduct that included transporting an inmate to a Port Allen motel during a night shift for a sexual rendezvous with one of those charged.

“These were bad judgment calls. People had some personal problems in their life and let inmates take advantage of them,” sheriff's office spokesman Dale Simoneaux said Tuesday. A 2016 audit had found that the West Baton Rouge work-release program was the worst in the state at detaining inmates, and an agency evaluation of policies and procedures prompted by the previous review revealed even deeper problems.

Dimple Jones, 56; Michael Lafayette, 60; James McClurg, 28; and Taija Pearly, 23, each face one count of malfeasance in office, and Pearly faces an additional count of sexual conduct prohibited with a prisoner. Jones, McClurg and Pearly have been booked into jail, but Lafayette has not surrendered. All four have since been fired.

Simoneaux said three of the suspects — all but Jones — were work-release deputies who accepted bribes and transported an inmate during a night shift to a Port Allen motel to have sex with Pearly.

Jones was not a jail deputy, but worked in the detention center. She was not involved in the transportation and bribery accusations, but had a part to play in the escape of an inmate in October, Simoneaux said.

In addition, the spokesman said, deputies were lax while conducting head counts. A review of the the state's work-release program had found that 22 inmates assigned to West Baton Rouge Parish walked away from job sites or escaped in a two-year period between 2013-15, out of 254 escapes reported statewide. Legislative auditors suggested better oversight, but walkaways and escapes continued in West Baton Rouge.

In June 2017, a West Baton Rouge Parish work-release inmate was arrested after leaving his job and allegedly physically assaulting a Plaquemine woman he'd been dating for nearly a year. Police said one of the inmate's co-workers drove him to the woman's home. The escape was the fifth in a six-month period from the West Baton Rouge Parish program, and the second that ended with a criminal act other than the escape.

Other escapes since the 2016 review included one in which three inmates kidnapped, beat and robbed a man in Baton Rouge, another in which an inmate was tracked down at a Mardi Gras parade in Metairie, and one in which the prisoner used a dummy he had built to fool officers during a routine headcount so he could leave the work-release facility and go on a marijuana run.

In many of the cases, deputies who were supposed to be supervising the inmates were suspended.

Simoneaux said the sheriff's office conducts background checks on all deputy candidates and the misconduct unveiled Tuesday shocked him.

Simoneaux said he can’t go into more detail about the case, citing the ongoing investigation.

He said the department is not expecting any other arrests in this matter.


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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