A woman alleging she was raped by a relative, an assistant warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, doesn’t have standing to sue a district attorney who worked with the suspected attacker to help him avoid prosecution, the Fifth Circuit ruled Tuesday.
Priscilla Lefebure alleges that she was sexually assaulted “on multiple occasions” by Barrett Boeker on the grounds of the penitentiary, in a residence provided to the assistant warden by the state. She alleges that Boeker, the husband of her cousin, used his connections with Samuel D. D’Aquilla, the district attorney for Louisiana’s 20th Judicial District, to convince authorities not to investigate or prosecute him.
Boeker was arrested on suspicion of second degree rape but never charged. His attorney, who is related to D’Aquilla, is also alleged to have conspired with law enforcement authorities in the case.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana partly granted a motion to dismiss by D’Aquilla, while finding that Lefebure had standing to sue. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed, ruling crime victims have no standing to challenge such misconduct if they aren’t the ones facing prosecution.
“It is difficult to imagine anyone who deserves justice more than Priscilla Lefebure. But her claim against D’Aquilla runs into a legal obstacle that the panel has no discretion to ignore,” the court said in an opinion by Judge James C. Ho.
“Supreme Court precedent makes clear that a citizen does not have standing to challenge the policies of the prosecuting authority unless she herself is prosecuted or threatened with prosecution,” the court said.
The Fifth Circuit cited Linda R.S. v. Richard D., a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that interpreted the Texas criminal code. The justices found that “a private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or nonprosecution of another.”
Chief Judge Priscilla R. Owen joined the opinion.
Judge James E. Graves Jr. dissented. He agreed with the majority’s view on standing under the Supreme Court case but said “an individual may nevertheless have standing to pursue an equal protection claim against law enforcement for discriminatory underenforcement of the law.”
Rutherford Law represented Lefebure. Porteous, Hainkel & Johnson LLP and C. Frank Holthaus of Baton Rouge, La., represented D’Aquilla.
The case is Lefebure v. D’Aquilla, 5th Cir., No. 19-30702, 10/5/21.