Judge rules Dennis and Cynthia Perkins must be tried together

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DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (The Livingston Parish News) – A Livingston Parish judge has ruled that a former sheriff’s lieutenant and his ex-wife — who together stand accused of a slew of sexual abuse charges, including many involving children — will not have separate trials.

Judge Erika Sledge made the decision less than a week after a “motion to sever” hearing requested on behalf of Dennis Perkins, a former SWAT team commander with the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“It is ordered that the Motion to Sever filed on behalf of Dennis Perkins is hereby denied,” Sledge wrote in her June 8 decision.

Dennis and Cynthia Perkins face a total of 150 charges, including first-degree rape, producing child pornography, obscenity, video voyeurism, sexual battery of a child under 13 years old, and mingling harmful substances. Dennis Perkins is also accused of sexual abuse of an animal.

The couple has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, has argued that the couple worked together in the crimes. Because the couple was jointly indicted in 2019, they would be tried together unless a judge granted a severance.

Last month, Dennis Perkins’ lawyer asked a judge to try him separately from his wife, arguing he would be “unduly prejudiced” by his now wife’s testimony. The request stems from the court’s decision to allow certain evidence to be presented to only Cynthia Perkins, while other evidence can be presented only to Dennis Perkins, according to records.

Cynthia Perkins, a former middle school teacher at Westside Junior High, filed for divorce days after the two were indicted, alleging Dennis Perkins had made “sufficient threats that render her fearful of (him).” 

Jarrett Ambeau, Dennis Perkins’ attorney, argued in a June 4 hearing that Cynthia Perkins plans to “point the finger” at his client as the instigator behind the alleged crimes. He also said Dennis and Cynthia Perkins’ defenses would be “antagonistic” toward each other.

The Attorney General’s office argued that the severance request should be denied because the defendant is not entitled to a severance and hasn’t shown justifiable reasons for one.

Prosecutors also cited the magnitude of the case — “substantial” amount of documentary evidence and witnesses, the “sensitive and difficult nature” of testimony for some witnesses, and required judicial resources — as a reason to deny the request.

Because a defendant is not entitled to a severance by right, the trial court has the option to grant a severance “if the interests of justice require doing so,” a request that has now been denied.

In her decision, Sledge wrote that the defense did not state how the defenses will be antagonistic. She also noted that a review of their divorce proceedings “presents no details in regards to antagonistic defenses.”

“The court is aware that providing specific information pertaining to antagonism puts the defense in a position of having to disclose details about trial strategy,” Sledge wrote. “However, an allegation of antagonism alone is insufficient to establish that a severance is warranted.”

Earlier this month, Ambeau said he planned to request a continuance for the trial — something prosecutors quickly said the state “would oppose,” adding that the trial has already been “pushed back a year.”

A hearing on that motion will be held on June 25.

Dennis and Cynthia Perkins are set to go to trial July 12.

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