Juvenile detention lawsuit may be near settlement

A lawsuit against Terrebonne Parish arising from allegations of sexual abuse at its juvenile detention center is headed back to court Tuesday.

But the trial may be short-lived.

Sources with direct knowledge of the case say both sides may be close to agreeing on a settlement.

“We plan on going forward on March 25 notwithstanding any changes,” said Felix Sternfels, who represents the plaintiff.

The suit was brought by a woman, now 20 years old, who suffered sexual abuse by a former guard, Angelo Vickers, at the detention center.

She was 14 years old when the incidents occurred.

The Tri-Parish Times is withholding the victim’s name due to the nature of the case.

Vickers, also named as a defendant in the civil suit, pleaded guilty in February 2011 to one count of molestation of a juvenile, and continues serving a 7-year prison sentence. He was arrested in 2009.

The girl said she had sex with Vickers in the main control room, in an area out of range of surveillance cameras, in exchange for candy, phone privileges and other benefits.

Child advocates were horrified last year when attorneys for the parish stated that the girl consented to the sex acts, and therefore shared blame.

Sources with direct knowledge of the case said attorneys for the girl and the parish had been involved with discussions, which were recommended by District Judge George Larke, and were close to a settlement.

Last week, the Terrebonne Parish Council met in a legally permissible secret session to discuss the case with attorneys for the parish.

The council unanimously voted to accept the recommendation of the attorneys, which sources said was to have involved settlement of the case.

Parish officials would not discuss details.

In testimony during the trial and in briefs filed on behalf of the parish, officials have maintained that the girl was not only a willing participant but helped coordinate the trysts.

The position, as presented in briefs, suggests that any award Larke might give the woman should be mitigated because of her alleged willing participation.

According to a member of Larke’s staff, attorneys are expected to discuss asking that the judge to seal the record when the case is called Tuesday.

A dollar amount sought by the plaintiff has not been disclosed.