- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

CHALMETTE, La. (AP) - Prosecutors are considering additional charges against St. Bernard Parish President Dave Peralta, who already faces sexual battery and stalking charges involving his ex-wife.

The Times-PicayuneNola.com reports (https://bit.ly/1ySSvsi) that prosecutors discussed the possibility of more charges Friday in a court hearing.

Peralta has denied raping his ex-wife, Sharon Schaefer. In Friday’s hearing, Judge Frank Foil ruled defense attorneys could use her sexual history as defense evidence in a trial on the sexual battery charge.

Assistant Attorney General David Weilbaecher told Judge Frank Foil that a grand jury is meeting and that the investigation “is also morphing into a conspiracy case.”

“There are a lot of things in play right now that I can’t discuss,” Weilbaecher said.

The grand jury proceeding came up at Friday’s hearing as attorneys discussed when the sexual battery case could come to trial, with Weilbaecher warning the judge that a new indictment might affect the case.

The new grand jury began meeting Jan. 15 after state officials raided Peralta’s parish government office and home in July. The warrant for that search said authorities were looking for evidence that Peralta had committed malfeasance in office, obstruction of justice and witness intimidation.

Weilbaecher said the sexual battery charge “was the catalyst for the rest of the investigation” of Peralta. That probe also has resulted in a charge in St. Tammany Parish that Peralta stalked his Schaefer by sending threats over the Internet after she accused him of rape. Peralta also denies that charge.

Investigators are examining whether Peralta used government resources to try to intimidate Schaefer, and other possible witnesses in his two existing court cases, according to previous court hearings.

Peralta’s sexual battery charge is related to an October 2013 accusation by Schaefer that he handcuffed, beat and raped her in their Meraux home. Peralta denies the charge, saying they engaged in “rough sex” at her request.

Foil on Friday ruled that Peralta can use their sexual history as evidence in his trial. Peralta’s attorney, Martin Regan, said that included evidence of domination sex, spankings and French maid outfits. He claims the incident in question was consensual and “typical.”

Foil said prosecutors at trial will be able to object to specific pieces of evidence. He postponed the trial until April 20.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com

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