NEW ORLEANS (CN) – A mother and her 17-year-old son say that Tangipahoa Parish District Attorney Scott Perrilloux intimidated the boy and obstructed justice. The boy says he was paid $1,000 to drop sexual assault charges he had brought against the co-owner of a restaurant chain. Perrilloux, who is up for re-election in October, allegedly obtained an interest in the chain after cutting a previous plea deal with the boy’s alleged assailant.
The lawsuit claims that in 1999 Hi-Ho Barbeque chain co-owner John Guzzardo Jr., who owns the chain with his father, was arrested and charged with “touching the genital areas of several adolescent boys” who worked for the Hi-Ho in Ponchatoula.
“Perrilloux entered into an agreement with the Guzzardo family whereby Guzzardo Jr. was offered a plea deal in which he was not required to serve jail time or register as a sex offender,” the complaint states. “Subsequently, and upon information and belief, Perrilloux was either given an ownership interest in Hi-Ho, or allowed to purchase an interest.”
Hi-Ho hired the 17-year-old plaintiff this spring. Soon after starting work, Guzzardo Jr. asked the boy if he was a homosexual, according to the complaint. “When (the plaintiff) said that he was, Guzzardo Jr. said that was the reason he hired (him). He stated to (the plaintiff) that he could ‘relate’ and hoped that (he) got ‘the hint,'” the complaint states.
Guzzardo Jr. then “began a pattern” of scheduling the boy to work the same shift with him, during which he would tell the boy “to go to ‘the shed,’ a storage area behind the restaurant and away from the restaurant’s security cameras and other employees,” the complaint states. There, it adds, Guzzardo Jr. repeatedly attempted to touch the boy’s genitals, but did not do so because the boy rejected his offer of $20 for it, and on one occasion threatened to hit him if he did.
When those attempts failed, Guzzardo Jr. grabbed the boy’s genitals in the shed anyway, the complaint states. The plaintiff says he did not report it because the Guzzardo family owns the restaurant.
Not long after this incident, the complaint states, Guzzardo called him into “the back of the restaurant” and asked if he knew “what happens to ‘big mouth bass.’ … Guzzardo Jr. told (the plaintiff) that they get killed and mounted on the wall because they have big mouths. He further told (the plaintiff) that would also happen to him if he told anyone about the incident in the shed.”
The plaintiff went to the Hammond police and filed a report with his uncle, who is a police officer, the complaint states. Charges were filed and although Guzzardo Jr. was arrested, “no one from the District Attorney’s office ever contacted the plaintiffs to interview them … or to provide them with information on hearing dates,” the complaint states.
“(T)hereafter defendants conspired together to threaten and coerce (the plaintiff) into dropping the charges against Guzzardo Jr. in an effort to, among other things, protect their business interests, and protect defendant Perrilloux who is up for re-election October 4, 2008,” the complaint states.
“Shortly after Guzzardo Jr.’s arrest,” the complaint states, the boy’s paternal grandmother urged him to drop the charges. She told him that someone had “approached and/or called her” at work and said the boy would be paid $1,000 to drop the charges. She told the boy “that she was afraid that if (he) did not agree, ‘they’ would hurt or kill him. She also stated that, based on the conversation with Doe, if (the boy) agreed ‘they’ would offer legal help and protection to her family and business if it was ever needed in the future.”
The boy says his grandmother and his father both “pleaded with” him to accept the offer.
“Fearing for his and his family’s safety,” the complaint states, “he agreed. He went to the Hammond police station and asked to drop the charges. He was informed that the matter had already been transferred to Defendant Perrilloux’s office and that he would have to wait until his first court date to drop the charges.”
The boy says he was directed to “the Amite courthouse,” where a woman in “Perrilloux’s office suite … informed him that she was the woman he was looking for. … Sometime later, Perrilloux asked another woman in the hallway to escort (the boy) across the street to the office of a local attorney. He handed the woman a note and told her to give it to the attorney. He instructed (the plaintiff) to sign the paperwork that the attorney would prepare and asked the woman to bring it back to him,” the complaint states. He did so, he says, and “Later that day, Doe brought ten $100 bills to (his grandmother) in an envelope.”
The plaintiffs demand damages for civil rights and RICO violations. They say the defendants obstructed justice and intimidated a witness. They are represented in Federal Court by Michael Bass of Hammond.