Livingston deputy cleared of rape allegation after sex in park bathroom; woman arrested

WALKER, LA (WAFB) - A Denham Springs woman has been arrested after reportedly filing a false rape complaint against a Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office deputy.

On October 24, troopers with the Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigations were asked to conduct an investigation for the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office about an alleged rape committed by one of their deputies. The investigation resulted in the arrest of Sherri Penton, 38, of Denham Springs.

The initial investigation by LSP revealed the incident began on October 20, when Penton and the deputy met through a dating website. They arranged to meet the next morning at a park in Walker. During the meeting, Penton and the deputy reportedly engaged in sexual acts. Three days later, Penton went to a hospital in Baton Rouge and claimed she was sexually assaulted by the deputy.

LPSO was contacted about the incident and they requested assistance from LSP since the case involved one of their deputies.

During the investigation, Penton and the deputy reportedly gave conflicting accounts of what happened. Penton reportedly told troopers that the deputy raped her in the back of his vehicle, while the deputy told troopers the sex was consensual and took place in the bathroom of the park.

With the assistance of the LSP Crime Lab DNA Unit, troopers were able to determine the encounter happened in the bathroom. The crime lab was able to collect DNA evidence from the bathroom that corroborated the deputy's account of events. The lab was unable to located any evidence from the deputy's vehicle indicating Penton was ever inside it.

After the month-long investigation, which involved support from analysts with the Louisiana State Analytical & Fusion Exchange Center, troopers were able to determine Penton knowingly filed a false complaint against the deputy. A warrant was obtained for Penton's arrest and she was taken into custody on Monday, November 27. She is charged with filing a false complaint against law enforcement and criminal mischief. She was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

"The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office takes every complaint that it receives seriously" said Sheriff Jason Ard. "My job and the job of this office is to investigate those complaints. The facts of any investigation reveal the validity of any complaint. In this particular incident, the evidence did not back up the accuser's story. I appreciate the work of the LSP Troopers and those at the LSP Crime Lab and Fusion Center for their work in this case. I treated the allegations against one of my deputies seriously, and the work of the LSP found that the allegations against him were false."

LPSO spokesperson, Lori Steele, says they found "no criminal wrongdoing" on behalf of the deputy, who has since resigned. Because of that, the sheriff's office will not be publicly identifying the man. Steele says the deputy was off-duty at the time of the sexual act. When WAFB asked Steele why having sex in a park bathroom was not considered a criminal act, she replied by text message saying, "this continues to be an ongoing investigation."

A local lawyer says, in his opinion, since the sex was not in the open, there would likely be little to charge the deputy with besides possibly trespassing.

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