The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.
Jan. 3—A former Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputy accused of horrific sex crimes involving children pleaded guilty Tuesday, avoiding a trial that would have required young victims to testify about a series of acts that generated criminal charges ranging from rape and child pornography to video voyeurism and inserting bodily fluids onto cupcakes served to junior high students.
He was sentenced to 100 years in prison.
Dennis Perkins and his then-wife, a former Livingston Parish schoolteacher, had faced a total of 150 felony charges after their arrests in 2019. Cynthia Perkins pleaded guilty last year to reduced charges and was sentenced to 41 years in prison in a deal contingent upon her testifying against her ex-husband, had he gone to trial.
Another woman, Melanie Curtin, received a life sentence last year after a jury found her guilty of helping the ex-deputy rape and film an unconscious woman in 2014. Dennis Perkins was the final defendant to have his case resolved in the sex crimes probe.
His trial on 78 counts had been set to start Monday in the Livingston Parish Courthouse. The trial was delayed last year after the state gave Dennis Perkins’ lawyer between 700,000 to 800,000 digital files during the discovery phase of court proceedings, and the lawyer said he needed additional time to work on the case.
In court Tuesday, Perkins pleaded guilty to:
— Second-degree rape
— Two counts of sexual battery of a child under the age of 13
— Video voyeurism
— Two counts of production of child pornography
— Mingling of harmful substances
The mingling pertains to an accusation that he contaminated pastries his former wife served to students. His other charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Under terms of the deal, Perkins will spend the rest of his life in prison.
“He not only waived any right to appeal, probation, or parole and any attempt to avoid conviction, but Mr. Perkins also spared the victims from reliving his horrific crimes during trial,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry, whose office prosecuted the case.
In the only victim impact statement given during the hearing, a woman questioned whether Perkins cares about anyone “besides (himself).” She cited his “sick, deplorable actions” in her condemnation.
“You will no longer have control over your victims anymore,” she said. “I’m so thankful I don’t have to sit in this courtroom with you or your attorney again. Have a nice life in prison.”
Perkins, 47, addressed the court himself, apologizing to the community, his victims and his family.
“I would like to say I’m sorry. … I spent more than three years living in a box. It’s not about me. I just want to make the statement. Jesus Christ has forgiven me. I’m grateful for that. I hope and pray that anybody that this has affected would also find forgiveness and healing through Jesus Christ,” he said.
Perkins was formerly the commander of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office SWAT unit and had been with the agency from 2002 until his arrest 17 years later.
Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said in a written statement after the plea deal was announced that the office continues to pray for those who were affected by Perkins’ crimes.
“My goal has (been) — and will always be — to protect victims’ rights and privacy,” Ard said. “We all worked diligently to help maintain the integrity of the case in order to secure a successful prosecution and to provide closure for the victims. We cooperated fully and are glad to see justice prevail.”
The case started with a tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, leading to the couple’s arrest in October 2019. An IP address associated with some of the material led investigators to the Perkinses’ home in Denham Springs.
In her plea deal, Cynthia Perkins pleaded guilty in February to one count each of producing child pornography, second-degree rape and mingling harmful substances.
Prosecutors previously had said the seizure of thousands of incriminating videos and photos from the couple’s home — 2,600 photos and more than 300 videos — made up 99% of their evidence against the former deputy. The most recent delay in the trial occurred after defense lawyer Jarrett Ambeau said he should be able to view the hundreds of thousands of additional files that hadn’t been turned over.
While preparing for Dennis Perkins’ court date, Judge Erika Sledge had said she expected the trial to take two weeks.
Barry Milligan, assistant attorney general, said after the hearing that Dennis Perkins’ defense team contacted the Attorney General’s Office about a week ago with an offer and that, after some discussion, they were able to come to an agreement.
“We felt satisfied that this accomplished justice, and we were able to get a win without putting the victims and this entire community through the rigors of this trial that was going to happen next week,” he said.
Milligan added that the case’s evidence, which he said was the worst he personally had ever seen, would have been “very disturbing” for both the victims and the jurors at the upcoming trial.
Court papers filed in December 2019 outlined the specifics against the couple.
Dennis Perkins’ initial 78 felony counts dated back to 2014 and included allegations involving two adults, two juveniles and a dog, according to papers filed then. Cynthia Perkins faced 72 charges initially.
Most of the offenses related to one victim under age 13 and included allegations of rape, attempted rape, sexual battery, video voyeurism and the production of child pornography over a period of several months in 2019. The documents do not detail the nature of the relationship between either suspect and the child.
Dennis Perkins was accused of ejaculating on various pastries and into bottles of energy drinks that were then ingested by unsuspecting victims. Also, sometime between June 1-19, 2019, Dennis Perkins engaged in sexual contact with a dog and filmed the act, according to the documents.
” Mr Perkins accepted responsibility for his acts and did not accept responsibility for anything he did not do,” Ambeau, the defense attorney, said in a text message after court had recessed. “And he expressed his sorrow in the courtroom for all persons harmed in this matter.”
Cynthia Perkins resigned from her job as a teacher at Westside Junior High School in Walker the day she was arrested in October 2019. She had been with Livingston Parish schools since 2009 as a substitute, then as a full-time teacher at North Live Oak Elementary and Live Oak Middle School.
Erica McLellan, an assistant attorney general who worked on the case, said the victims were satisfied with the plea agreement and individually had been walked through the nuances of what that deal entails.
“They’ve been through hell and they’re just as satisfied to see this come to a conclusion and justice prevail so that they can hopefully move forward and not have to look back,” she said.
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