Louisiana man arrested and detained for nearly 72 hours despite claims of video evidence proving his innocence

Published: May. 3, 2023 at 11:15 PM CDT
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PLAQUEMINES PARISH, La. (WVUE) - A Louisiana man says he was wrongfully arrested and held in custody for nearly three days following a car crash in February of 2022.

The incident took place at the exit gate of the Parks of Plaquemines subdivision on Super Bowl Sunday as construction workers were leaving the site after completing their job.

Jared Folks, the owner of the construction company, says that he was not at the scene of the crash and that surveillance video from both the scene of the accident and his office proves his innocence. However, Plaquemines Parish Deputy Vincenzo Sainato swore under oath that Folks was at the scene of the crash, leading to Folks’ arrest and detention.

Folks says workers for a subcontractor of his construction company were finishing up installing spray foam insulation at a home in the Parks of Plaquemines subdivision. As the workers left the subdivision, Folks says the exit gate malfunctioned, hitting the truck the workers were in. He says when the workers called him, he was at home watching the Super Bowl and contacted the general contractor.

A Plaquemine Parish deputy claims to be at two places at once
A Plaquemine Parish deputy claims to be at two places at once

“I said, ‘The gate has malfunctioned, do you have contact information for the homeowners association, that way we can reach out to him.’ And he said, ‘I’m at a Super Bowl party, I have an email, I can send it to you in the morning.’ He said, you know, basically free the truck, and we’ll contact… the homeowners association and get the repairs done to the truck.” Folks said.

Folks says he emailed the homeowners association, but shortly after, heard from Deputy Vincenzo Sainato.

“I explained to him what happened, I explained to him I was watching the Superbowl at home, and I explained the steps, I explained that I got a text message; I immediately contacted, you know, the general contractor on the job, and I requested the HOA information,” Folks said.

Folks says the deputy asked him to send text messages to prove he wasn’t at the scene. Folks says that’s when he decided to reach out to his attorney.

“I reached out to my attorney, he said … ‘No, we’re not gonna send them private text messages on this … You’re the victim, your company’s truck is the victim.’ So, at that point, he called back the following day. He was pretty aggressive. And he said, ‘I’ll have you arrested for hit-and-run if you don’t cooperate in this investigation.’ I said, ‘Well, listen, let me three-way in my attorney. And that way, we can discuss it.’ At that point, he said, ‘Oh, you’re uncooperative.” and hung up the phone,” Folks said.

A few days later, Deputy Sainato secured an arrest warrant for Folks. Sainato claimed high-quality video surveillance showed Folks was driving the truck at the scene, and that Folks told him he was in a hurry to get home to watch the Super Bowl.

However, Folks says he never told the deputy that. He says that surveillance video shows someone who looks nothing like him at the scene and that he has his own surveillance video, showing he was in his office in Kenner watching the Super Bowl at the time of the crash.

Folks gave FOX 8 video from his office on the day of the crash. He can be seen sitting at his desk, and a TV in the corner shows the Super Bowl. At 6:38 p.m., the video shows Folks watching Matthew Stafford throw a touchdown to Cooper Kupp.

Folks’ attorney Nanak Rai says along with the surveillance video from Folks’ office, video from the scene of the accident should also clear his client. He says the person at the scene looks nothing like Folks.

“Without a doubt … my client is almost six feet tall, and he’s bald, and this gentleman had dark hair, dark complected. And, you know, had a beard and a mustache. And again, they were both dark black,” Rai said.

Despite the video, about a week after the crash, Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office asked Kenner police to arrest Folks on the misdemeanor charges of hit and run driving, and not having insurance; even though Folks claims he does have insurance. They arrested him at his Kenner home and kept him in a holding cell at the Kenner jail over Presidents’ Day weekend until Plaquemines Parish picked him up and he was able to bond out.

A Plaquemine Parish deputy claims to be at two places at once
A Plaquemine Parish deputy claims to be at two places at once

FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti says he’s not surprised by the move.

“That’s the old two-party two-step, oldest trick in the book, that makes you sit for the whole weekend. And you really can’t get out because you have to have two different jurisdictions both bond you out or release you. And so, what they did was kind of dirty to this guy to make him sit for two or three days in jail. I mean, I’ve been seeing it for 30 years,” Raspanti said.

Sainato has a history of misconduct on the job. In 2020 and 2021, he served five separate suspensions for violations on the job.

In one case, Sainato got into an argument with a supervisor. In another, he was accused of driving 80mph in a 45 mph zone, during inclement weather, with a suspect in his back seat. In another incident, Sainato was accused of backing into a vehicle and leaving the scene without telling the owner or reporting the incident.

Sainato also lost his take-home car privileges multiple times, including once when he ran a red light while driving over 100 mph without his lights or sirens.

Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jerry Turlich declined to comment, citing the pending case, but in response to prior sanctions against Sainato, a spokesperson wrote, “They do not have any bearings in this investigation and do not put any questions into his competency or credibility as a deputy with PPSO. His sanctions were based on performance issues that were not related to his investigative abilities or competency.”

Raspanti says the video evidence appears to show Sainato gave a false statement in the affidavit.

“Well, you’re not supposed to swear out an affidavit that you know not to be true. So, if he’s swearing out a false affidavit for an arrest warrant, that’s not kosher,” Raspanti said. “I don’t get why they would almost purposefully inculpate themselves into a bad allegation like that. And if it clearly shows that he wasn’t there.”

FOX 8 emailed the District Attorney for comment. At the time, they couldn’t because of a pending case, but three weeks after FOX 8 started asking questions, the DA’s office dropped the charges. However, the same day, Folks was served with a new civil lawsuit, brought by the Parks of Plaquemines subdivision.

Folks says he was shocked when he arrived at court believing the case would be behind him, only to find deputies waiting for him.

“So, I walked into the courtroom hoping to get the case dismissed. The case was dismissed. And I had an officer waiting there to serve me additional papers for damages. I definitely thought it was going to be behind me.”

The civil suit cites many of the same false findings in the original arrest warrant.

Raspanti says Sainato should face his own investigation and possible sanctions for his actions. Folks has also filed a federal lawsuit against Deputy Sainato for false arrest and imprisonment.

“It’s a major disruption to, my business, my daily life, and just also hanging over my head because at any point, they have the footage to show that it wasn’t me.”

FOX 8 called and emailed the attorney representing the Parks of Plaquemines in the civil lawsuit for comment. Jacob Braud sent a statement to FOX 8 that says, in part, “Our Firm has had and has no involvement in the criminal matter and is unable to comment on such. As to the civil lawsuit, it was filed to preserve the property damage claim of the Parks Homeowners’ Association for the costs of repair of its gate. To date, we have been provided nothing from Air Tight Construction, LLC or Mr. Folks but for demand letters from an attorney on their behalf, with one stating that Mr. Folks drove the subject vehicle that collided with gate. See, attached. As with any civil lawsuit, all allegations will be vetted through the discovery process.”

The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office issued a second statement to FOX 8 Wednesday evening which said Folks’ “Refusal to cooperate in the investigation hindered his ability and responsibility as a business owner to mitigate the situation. Although the Hit and Run charge was dropped against Mr. Folks, this does not necessarily absolve his criminal involvement and culpability in this incident because it is a fact that it was Mr. Folks’ company vehicle as this is still an ongoing investigation.”

In that statement, the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office did not address why Folks was arrested and charged even though video evidence appears to show he wasn’t at the scene of the alleged crime.

Both statements from the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office are below:

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