In January, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell took over the investigation into rape allegations against a local parish president. Now we hear details of an alleged rape, told to us by the wife of that parish president. Here's an exclusive interview with Sharon Peralta, who has accused her husband, St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta, of rape. We warn you – parts of the interview and images in this story are graphic.
"I was basically a prisoner," Sharon Peralta told us. "He was the warden and I was the prisoner in his home."
Sharon Peralta told us her husband, Pres. David Peralta, turned violent on October 27, 2013, a Sunday. She says photos of bruises on her backside show the aftermath of his abuse.
"I was upstairs in the room, doing my own thing, and he came upstairs and busted in the door and forced my clothes off of me," she said. "And I was telling him, 'No, no.' I wasn't into it. And he just kept taking them off and forcing me. And he pushed me out of that room, into the room across the hallway. And when he got me over there, he handcuffed me and he tied me from a rope that was hanging from the ceiling, which I had never seen before. He'd never done that before."
Photos from the room show ropes, a swing. It's where, Peralta said, her husband sexually assaulted her, forcing her to perform oral sex.
"I wasn't cooperating and he got angry and left," she told us. "I thought he was finished. He had un-handcuffed me."
Peralta said she left that room and tried to walk across the hall to the bedroom. "Before I could close the door, he came from behind me and pushed me across the bed and forced himself on me," she said. "He kept hitting me on the backside and I asked him to stop. He was hurting me."
Peralta said that hitting left its mark. "He told me to shut up," she said, "and that maybe I didn't want it but he was going to take it. And he forced himself inside of me."
Finally, she told us, "He finished and got up and walked out of the room.
Peralta said there was little she could do. "I tried to fight back," she said, "but it's hard when you have somebody on top of you and restraining you like that, and he's strong. I had no way out."
She said she then went across the hall to the bathroom to take the pictures, she explained, "because I knew at that point that I had been violated. And it was something… his face was like a monster... he was angry. I had never seen this face on him before. Something snapped on him."
Every photo taken on a cell phone has metadata information digitally stamped onto it, as soon as the picture is snapped. Among other things, metadata clearly reveals the date and time a photo was taken. The photos Sharon Peralta sent to FOX 8 News match the time period and date of the alleged abuse and rape – they were all stamped around 11:45 in the morning on Sunday, October 27.
"I snapped shots of my backside so I could have proof of how he had hurt me and how hard he had hit me, where he left the handprint on me," she explained. "And pictures of the room where he had tied me up, and the things that he had in there that he had wanted me to use on myself. And then after that, I hurried up and left the house and I ran to my daughter."
Peralta says she left the house and went to the St. Bernard Sheriff's Office. Sheriff jimmy Pohlmann told us he "wanted State Police to handle the complaint to avoid any question of whether it would be an objective investigation."
Peralta drove to the Interim LSU Hospital in New Orleans, where doctors performed a rape kit. She provided FOX 8 News with a copy of the medical report.
It says Peralta had a cervical strain or sprained neck, and a reddened area on her neck. The doctor wrote about "signs of injury around the vagina," noting vaginal trauma and a vaginal tear. The report also documented reddened skin areas on both buttock cheeks.
The medical report shows that Peralta told doctors the same story she told us. The doctor wrote, "patient is consistent in reporting history." Peralta told the doctor her husband "brought her forcefully into a room against her will where he handcuffed her and forced oral sex." And then, she said, he "laid her prone on the bed and vaginally penetrated her (with ejaculation)."
State Police started to investigate and, according to Sharon Peralta, went to the Peralta home that night. She says State Police told her the parish president would be arrested. State Police went to the home; they didn't arrest him.
She complied. At the office, Sharon Peralta says, David Peralta told her to sign an affidavit to drop the charges. The affidavit Sharon signed says she did "not wish to see David Peralta prosecuted for any offenses arising from the incident which occurred at our home... on October 27, 2013." Sharon Peralta told us the rape did happen, but her husband's threats pushed her to drop the charges.
"If I didn't change my statement, say that I was crazy and go to a mental hospital and commit myself and say that I made up the entire story, then he would destroy me, he would take my job and take my pension and ruin me," she told us.
Sharon Peralta says she and her husband went to State Police together. She signed the affidavit to drop the charges.
David Peralta has not been charged. He declined our request for an on camera interview, but released a statement, writing, "Unfortunately St. Bernard Parish Government's policy prohibits me from discussing any matters that are currently in litigation. Also this is a personal matter as well and I would ask that you respect my privacy for the present time,"
In November, Peralta did address the allegations in an interview with FOX 8's Shelley Brown.
"I think it was a big misunderstanding, and just… things kind of got out of hand a little bit," he said. "It was a personal matter between my wife and I."
During that interview, Pres. Peralta said the differences had been settled. "You know, everyone in their lives has domestic issues between their spouses," he said. "But, you know, we were open. I cooperated, Sharon cooperated."
Sharon Peralta works as a paralegal for the parish. In early December, Sharon Peralta said, her husband ordered her to take a forced leave of absence.
She said he told her, "He's the parish president and that's his building and he can do whatever the [expletive] he wants in the building… and that he didn't have to have a reason to fire me, I was an at-will employee and he could fire me at any time. But I was going to do as he said. In order to keep things they way they were, I was going to have to do as he told me."
So she left and, for the past few weeks, has taken medical leave.
"Right now I'm on FMLA," she told us, "because on December the fourth, Dave told me at home that I was being given an option of taking a forced leave of absence until the first of the year, or be fired."
Peralta said the marital problems began in September 2013, and since then she and her husband had been living in separate rooms - until she moved out, following the alleged rape. She left him for good on December 12, 2013. David Peralta has since filed for divorce.
Sharon Peralta said she went back to State Police after Christmas, telling them to move forward with the case.
She said the parish president is telling friends that the rape didn't occur. "He's going to try to say that we played like that all the time, it's just role-playing," she told us. "He told me that 'it was just sex, Sharon, get over it…' That's what he told me, 'It was just sex, get over it.' And that… he'd say that I was into that kind of thing, and I was never into that."
Peralta also gave us text messages that she says are between her and her husband from October 27, the day of the alleged rape. The dates and time on her phone are from that day. According to her phone, these texts took place an hour after the alleged rape:
Sharon Peralta's phone: You hit me so hard you left a handprint! You raped me!
David Peralta's phone: Where r u going.
Sharon Peralta's phone: You handcuffed me, tied me up, hit me on my butt, forced me to my knees, forced your [expletive] in my mouth grabbing the back of my head, got angry when I didn't comply got up walked out & I walked to the bedroom upstairs. You came behind me saying maybe you don't want it but I'm taking it!! You forced yourself in me hurting me slapping me very hard on my butt I told you to stop it hurt & you told me to shut up. I was crying from the time you stormed in the room & forced my clothing off. You were mean, abusive, and angry & I never once consented to this situation! YOU RAPED ME!!!!
David Peralta's phone: And we played that game how many times.
Sharon Peralta's phone: Consenting and not consenting there is a difference! It was very obvious that I was not consenting!! We haven't spoken in days!!! You have never hit me so hard to leave a handprint!
When we looked at her cell phone, we didn't see another response from Mr. Peralta's phone.
We asked Sharon Peralta to explain why she was willing to do the interview with us. She told us, "Because I want everyone to know the truth about him. I want everyone what he did to me."
More than three months after the alleged rape, she says she's frustrated. Nothing has happened to her husband, a man she says hurt her and has forced her to live in hiding, away from St. Bernard Parish - a parish run by a man she's accusing of rape and abuse.
"He is acting like he's all powerful and can do whatever he wants," said Peralta. "Dave Peralta doesn't have to answer to anybody, that's what he believes. He's the parish president. He's above the law."
Sharon Peralta's medical report also said she took medication for depression and anxiety. She told us she had not taken the medication two or three months prior to the alleged rape and abuse, but did take a pill after the alleged incident.
Last week, we sent David Peralta a detailed list of everything being alleged against him in this story, Including copies of the text messages and a picture of the bruise. He missed two deadlines to provide us with an interview or statement, but did send us something just before 5:00 Monday.
Peralta's attorney wrote, "It is unfortunate that Sharon Schaefer Peralta has chosen to continue to disseminate to the media untrue allegations concerning her husband, Mr. David Peralta. Ms. Peralta alleges that an incident between herself and her husband, David Peralta, occurred on October 27, 2013. On that date, the Louisiana state police investigated the alleged incident and no charges were brought against Mr. Peralta. On October 28, 2013, the day after Sharon Peralta claimed to have been sexually assaulted, she recanted her complaint in a videotaped statement taken by Louisiana state police."
Peralta's attorney also added that Sharon moved back into the Peraltas' Meraux home and lived there until December 10, without incident. And, he said, during that time the couple attended numerous public functions and activities together.
The attorney gave us photos of the Peraltas in Disney World in November, during a work-related convention. The attorney also referenced a trip to the Audubon Zoo together in late October.
When told about David Peralta's statement, Sharon Peralta told us she moved back in with her husband and went to the zoo and Disney World because she was afraid for her life and afraid to lose her job, because of threats made by her husband.