- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A federal judge on Monday awarded $50,000 in damages to a woman who accused a former Louisiana police chief of sexually assaulting her in his office while she was drunk and he was on duty.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ruled that the town of Sorrento and its former police chief, Earl Theriot, are both liable for violating the woman’s constitutional rights.

The judge previously ruled in the woman’s favor in June, at the conclusion of a daylong trial for the woman’s civil lawsuit. Dick concluded that the woman was legally incapable of consenting to sex with Theriot given how drunk she was at the time of their Nov. 1, 2013, encounter inside the town’s police station.

Dick’s order Monday awards the woman $15,000 in compensatory damages and $35,000 in punitive damages.

At the close of trial in June, Dick had put off a decision on whether Theriot owes the woman any monetary damages. And she didn’t rule from the bench on whether the town is liable for the woman’s claims against it.

The 44-year-old woman said Theriot, 68, forced her to perform sexual acts in his office after he found her drunk in public. Theriot’s attorneys claimed the woman initiated the “unconsummated” sexual encounter to save herself from jail. The woman testified that the encounter left her “in a state of shock and fear.”

The judge ruled that Theriot abused his power, calling his conduct “extreme and outrageous” and “atrocious and intolerable in a civilized community.”

“There was at least an implied, if not an overt, threat that (the woman) would be arrested and jailed if she did not perform Theriot’s ‘favor,’” Dick wrote.

The judge ruled the town is liable for Theriot’s actions because the evidence established that he was the “chief policymaker regarding day-to-day law enforcement” in Sorrento.

In 2014, Theriot was sentenced to two years of probation after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his sexual encounter with the woman. A court filing that accompanied Theriot’s guilty plea in the criminal case said he had “inappropriate sexual contact” with the woman on Nov. 1, 2013.

Theriot served as the town’s police chief for 12 years. The plea deal for the criminal case required him to resign from his post in Sorrento, where sheriff’s deputies now patrol the town of roughly 1,500 residents.

On the night before she crossed paths with Theriot, the woman went out drinking with friends. One of them dropped her off at a gas station, where she fell asleep.

The next day, Theriot responded to a 911 call and found the intoxicated woman in the gas station’s parking lot. He placed her in the front seat of his police vehicle - without handcuffs - and briefly stopped in front of her home before driving her to the police station.

The woman claimed Theriot detained her, forced her to perform sexual acts and physically restrained her after she called for help. The judge, however, said there was “conflicting evidence” that couldn’t prove the woman’s claims that Theriot restrained her wrists with her belt.

Theriot took the stand during the trial but refused to answer questions from the woman’s attorney, asserting his right against self-incrimination.

The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault. The woman said the encounter made her feel ashamed and suicidal.

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