LIVINGSTON, La. (WAFB) – A Livingston Parish jury has found Melanie Curtin guilty in the 2014 sexual assault of an unconscious woman. She was then taken away in handcuffs.
The jury found her guilty of the most serious possible charge of aggravated rape, which carries a penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole or reduced sentencing. The jury also found her guilty on the charge of video voyeurism.
The jury deliberated for much of the day before returning with its verdict in the Curtin case late Friday.
Curtin will be sentenced on Monday, Jan. 24. The defense will appeal. It still maintains Curtin was drugged and is innocent.
Former high-ranking Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputy Dennis “Denny” Perkins is charged in the same case and is set to be tried next year.
A 17-minute video of the disturbing assault was the focus of Curtin’s three-day trial and was watched in its entirety by the jury.
“That was our main piece of evidence,” said prosecutor Barry Milligan with the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. “It was possibly the strongest piece of evidence I’ve ever seen in a criminal case, yet. That was our case.”
“She has never changed her story,” said John McLindon, Curtin’s defense attorney. “She said, ‘John, I do not remember this.’ We talked about plea deals. She said, ‘I can’t plea to something I didn’t do.’ When you plead guilty, you have to sit up there in front of a judge and say that you did it. She said, ‘I can’t bring myself to do it. I do not remember this event.’”
But prosecutors said justice was served for the victim.
“We’re very pleased that the jury reached the verdict that it did,” added Milligan.
Shortly after beginning deliberations Friday morning, the jury returned to ask the judge to better define the difference between “aggravated” rape and the less serious charge of “simple” rape. As Curtin returned to court to hear that jury question, she appeared to be unable to stand on her own and was supported by a family member.
As the jury first entered deliberations earlier in the day, Curtin left the courtroom openly wailing, her cries echoing through the courthouse.
Prosecutors said Curtin, 42, and Perkins both sexually assaulted the woman in 2014 and took turns recording the incident.
In closing arguments Friday morning, Milligan told jurors that the video clearly depicts a rape and that Curtin was a willing participant in the assault.
“They want you to believe she was a victim. She was not the victim,” said Milligan.
The prosecutor told jurors Curtin was helping her lover, Perkins, make the video that “he wanted.”
Prosecutor Erica McLellan reminded the jury that Curtin used her “fingers and mouth” to violate the victim.
McLindon told jurors there is nothing “clear or convincing” that was presented at trial that points to his client’s guilt. He urged jurors to consider the serious decision that was in their hands.
“They’re asking you to put a mother of two behind jail for life,” he said.
McLindon has claimed his client was drugged on the night of incident, possibly with a drug like Ambien. He brought forth an expert who claimed that while taking Ambien, it is possible to do something and later have no recollection of it.
McLindon urged the jury to remember that the victim in the case, after watching the rape video, told investigators it looked like something looked “off” about Melanie Curtin. The victim was a friend of both Curtin and Perkins.
He told the jury that, as a narcotics detective, Denny Perkins had access to a wide array of drugs that he could have used to secretly drug Curtin.
“Denny’s ‘Netflix and Chill’ was “Netflix and Pills,” McLindon told the jury.
Perkins is also charged in the same case and is awaiting trial next year.
Curtin did not take the stand during her trial.
Thursday morning, Livingston parish jurors heard powerful testimony from the victim.
“When I saw parts of that video, I literally wanted to die,” the woman said as she cried and clutched a tissue while testifying in court.
Investigators discovered the nearly 20-minute video inside the home of Dennis Perkins as they were gathering evidence following his arrest in 2019.
Wednesday, jurors watched that video as the trial got underway.
At the time, Dennis Perkins was a high-ranking member of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Department.
Perkins and Curtin were both married to different people at the time but the two had been having an affair with one another, prosecutors say.
They both knew the female victim.
Prosecutors allege Perkins fantasized about having sex with both of the women at the same time but the victim, presented with the idea, turned down his offer.
The video of the rape is part of a mountain of evidence gathered as part of the case against Dennis Perkins and his former school teacher wife Cynthia. Dennis and Cynthia both face multiple charges for alleged sex crimes. The crimes include allegations that schoolchildren were fed desserts laced with semen from Dennis. They both remained jailed awaiting trials scheduled for next year.
Curtin was not accused of any crimes involving children.
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