Suit: Perret stalked ex-fiancé after 2004 breakup John Houghtaling II’s 2005 lawsuit claims Perret, who is now seeking an appellate judgeship, once followed him and his new girlfriend to Europe to further the threats and harassment.

by Mike Stagg

John Houghtaling II’s 2005 lawsuit claims Perret, who is now seeking an appellate judgeship, once followed him and his new girlfriend to Europe to further the threats and harassment.

Candyce Gagnard Perret
Photo by Robin May

Candyce Gagnard Perret was sued by her former fiancé John W. Houghtaling II in 2005 for defamation and stalking following their 2004 breakup, according to a lawsuit obtained late Friday by The IND.

The suit paints a picture of an unhinged, spurned lover (Gagnard Perret) bent on revenge.

It was filed on behalf of Houghtaling and his then-girlfriend, Brittany Benoit, against Gagnard on July 1, 2005, by Stephen Huber, an attorney in Gauthier, Houghtaling, Williams, & Sculzer, the firm that Houghtaling has headed since 2001.

The suit sought and received “a temporary restraining order requiring defendant Candyce Gagnard ... domiciled in the Parish of Orleans, to stay away from plaintiffs, their residences, their businesses, and schools, cease and desist all threatening and intimidation of plaintiffs, to not defame or slander plaintiffs or their businesses, and otherwise be restrained from interacting with plaintiffs in any manner either directly or indirectly” for reasons the petition goes on to list.

The petition states that Houghtaling and Gagnard’s relationship had ended approximately 11 months before he filed the suit. That would have put the breakup shortly after Gagnard’s 2004 arrest on public indecency charges stemming from an incident on the beach at Seaside, Fla., in which Gagnard told Walton County sheriff’s deputies that she was an assistant district attorney, a position she has never held. The deputies made the arrest at Houghtaling’s home there.

Candyce Gagnard married Hunter Perret of Lafayette in 2009. She is one of three Republican women seeking a seat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeal.

Click on image to enlarge and read full suit.

The petition for the injunction alleged that after the 2004 split with Houghtaling, Gagnard “began a consistent and persistent pattern of harassing and threatening” him. Those acts are listed as:

a. constant and continued phone calls all during the day including inappropriate hours including making repetitive calls to Plaintiff Houghtaling between the hours of 1:00 - 4:00 in the morning;
b. repeatedly threatening to physically accost Plaintiff Houghtaling’
c. repeatedly attempting to intimidate Plaintiff Houghtaling;
d. repeatedly threatening to harm Plaintiff Houghtaling’s business, reputation and career;
e. unauthorized accessing of Houghtaling’s personal and professional information.

The suit alleged similar threats and intimidation attempts by Gagnard directed at Benoit.

Gagnard’s actions were not confined to the United States, the suit charged:

During a recent trip to Europe by Plaintiffs, Defendant Gagnard discovered their itinerary and repeatedly contacted them at their hotel. Plaintiff Gagnard then notified them that she had followed them to Europe and that she would be waiting for them outside their hotel at the time they were scheduled to depart.

The petition did not state whether Gagnard made good on that threat. At the time the suit was filed, Gagnard was living in downtown New Orleans, not at the Lake Vista neighborhood address she had shared with Houghtaling at the time of her 2004 arrest.

The suit also asserted that Houghtaling and Benoit believed that Gagnard’s “harassment is escalating in intensity and severity, Plaintiffs fear for their safety. Therefore immediate action is needed to protect plaintiff.” (Emphasis in the original.)

The 2005 suit is one of three civil actions filed by Houghtaling against Gagnard over a 16-month period beginning in October 2004 and ending in February 2006.

The IND is seeking to obtain the other suits, which appear to be sealed. Representatives of the Orleans Parish Civil District Court initially told The IND that all three cases were sealed.

On Monday, IND Media attorney Gary McGoffin will initiate proceedings to have the two remaining cases unsealed.

The IND contacted the Perret campaign for comment earlier in the day, after we learned that Houghtaling had filed three lawsuits against his former Loyola College of Law classmate. At that time, the content and purposes of the suits were not known to us. This afternoon, the campaign declined to comment on the suits.

When we received the 2005 suit seeking the injunction, we again sought comment from the campaign. Spokeswoman Marie Centanni did not respond to a request for comment.

The record of the lawsuits contrasts radically with a March 3 letter from Houghtaling, which he emailed to Candyce Gagnard Perret and had his secretary share with The IND.

Click on image to read full letter.

In the letter, published by The IND on March 6, Houghtaling is apologetic to Gagnard Perret, assuming blame for her 2004 arrest in Florida and for failing to file a civil suit alleging wrongful arrest against the Walton County Sheriff’s deputies who made it.

Houghtaling gave his version of the events that led to Gagnard’s arrest, claiming that it was a form of the officer’s retaliation against him after he “mouthed off to the officers.”

Houghtaling said that the listing of Gagnard’s occupation as “assistant district attorney” in the arrest was intentionally false “to evade exculpatory evidence in the report.” Gagnard was a city prosecutor in her hometown of Marksville between 1998 and 2001, several years before her arrest, but never served as an assistant district attorney. In the letter, Houghtaling later concedes that the ADA listing might have been “an inadvertent mistake (as they are similar terms) but it is clear they [the arresting deputies] manipulated the report.”

John W. Houghtaling II

Houghtaling then expressed his remorse about learning that the statute of limitations covering the filing of false arrest petitions had expired on the matter.

The injunction paints a picture of Gagnard Perret that is radically different from the woman Houghtaling described at the close of his March letter he shared with The IND:

I understand that you are seeking to run for the appellate court and this false [arrest] report is being circulated and used against you unjustly by an opponent. I feel the pain of injustice return that I felt that night. I can’t think of a more moral, caring and smart appellate judge. While we haven’t spoken in a while, I for one am grateful you are offering to serve our great state.

This is the third major revelation affecting the Perret campaign that has cast doubt on what once appeared to be her inevitable election based on the array of political and business support her campaign attracted. The IND’s reporting on a federal investigation into her husband’s company, Louisiana Specialty Institute, and a subsequent report about Gagnard Perret’s Florida arrest coupled with he falsely identifying herself as an ADA has resulted in Perret avoiding forums with her opponents Vanessa Anseman and Susan Theall, each of whom are now dealing with problems of their own. (Read more about Anseman here and Theall here.)

The election to fill the eight remaining years for the seat vacated by Jimmy Genovese’s election to the Louisiana Supreme Court last year is Saturday, March 25. A runoff, if needed, will be held April 29.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The IND reached out via email to Houghtaling earlier today for comment (before we obtained a copy of his 2005 lawsuit). He sent the following statement at 7:50 p.m. and requested that The IND publish it in its entirety.

I understand you were involved in the effort to unseal a filing on a personal matter that I had sealed long ago. It is my understanding your efforts went through a duty judge who was unfamiliar with the matter and I was not given sufficient notice to oppose your efforts to unseal the document that was filed. When you contacted me I asked if your efforts were a partisan political attempt or whether you were acting as an objective reporter. You told me you were an objective reporter. Instead I found out that you fund abortion doctors, a cause directly opposed to Mrs Perrett’s platform, and her father in law was on a board which previously sanctioned you for campaign ethic violations. You have inappropriately asked me questions about my private and decade old romantic relationship with Ms Perrett. Your crusade is as desperate as it is inappropriate, and your readership would be better informed if your true personal dispute with Ms Perrett was exposed. As for the action you improperly had unsealed without notice or hearing, it was sealed because it was filed in the heat of the romantic moment and shortly after its filing, I deemed the filing inappropriate.

The IND has not yet taken action to unseal the cases. As we stated in the story, we plan to do so Monday.

On the ethics issue: After Mike Stagg ran for governor in 2003, he was late in filing a required campaign finance report. He asked the Ethics Board for leniency at that time, and it suspended part of the fine he owed. Hank Perret, candidate Candyce Perret’s father in law, was on the board back then. After Stagg ran for Lafayette city-parish president in 2011, he was late with another report. That brought a fine and also triggered the re-imposition of the suspended portion of the fine from the 2003 campaign. He contacted the Ethics Administration and worked out a payment plan and paid the fine over a 90-day period. Those payments were arranged through the Ethics Administration and did not involve the board itself. The IND reported on the ethics fines several local politicians, including Stagg, were facing in this 2012 story.