January Retrial Set For New Orleans Officer Accused of Raping 7-Year-Old Girl

The District Attorney’s office will again seek to secure a guilty verdict for a fired New Orleans Police Department officer accused of raping his former girlfriend’s daughter in 2003, when the girl was 7 years old. At a hearing in the case on Monday (Dec. 11), Orleans Criminal District Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier set Michael Thomassie’s trial date for Jan 22.

The rape conviction for Thomassie, 43, was overturned in December 2016 by the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal on grounds that text messages Thomassie exchanged with a woman during jury selection in the first trial were improperly admitted into evidence. The ex-officer was found guilty in August 2015 of first-degree rape and then sentenced to life in prison before the higher court ordered a retrial.

The victim, 19 at the time of the first trial, testified against Thomassie, a 13-year veteran of the NOPD who was fired from the force after his conviction. She reported the crime in 2013 after being encouraged by relatives to do so, authorities said.

In the text messages in question, which prosecutors presented as evidence during the trial and referred to during closing arguments, Thomassie indicated he preferred when women have no pubic hair and encouraged her to get rid of her own.

Prosecutors obtained Thomassie’s text messages through a search warrant after family members of the victim raised concerns to prosecutors Thomassie might have been using his cell phone during jury selection to try to tamper with witnesses. The 4th Circuit opinion, written by Judge Rosemary Ledet, found the trial judge, Flemings-Davillier, should not have allowed the text messages to be brought up during trial. In addition to the relevancy issue, Ledet wrote that Thomassie’s guilty verdict was obtained by a nonunanimous vote of 10-2, and that some statements were inconsistent.

Ledet’s opinion cites Assistant District Attorney Laura Rodrigue’s argument that the text exchange was relevant because the defendant was “inclined to rape a child,” so the text exchange “to us becomes extremely important when he’s talking about wanting a female to be completely without hair down there.”

The ruling said the state offered no expert testimony to contend that an adult man’s sexual attraction to adult women without pubic hair “necessarily means that he is also sexually attracted to prepubescent females.”

Court records show that during Monday’s hearing, Thomassie’s attorney Eric Hessler and Assistant District Attorney Tiffany Tucker made clear there was no negotiable plea deal, leading to the setting of a trial date.

Thomassie, who appeared in court in plain clothes on Monday, has been out on a $420,000 property bond since August.

Source: http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2017/12/rape_7_year_old_girl_michael_t.html