Police defend arrests

Max Cordova

Dusty Rineheart

Police respond to social media comments about molestation case

Morgan City Police spokesman Capt. James Blair expressed his support of officers’ decisions to arrest two men Sunday during an incident involving a 16-year-old girl at Lake End Park, he said in a statement on a social media site and to the news media.
Blair also emphasized the police department’s role in the criminal justice system being to determine probable cause for an arrest and not to decide whether anyone is guilty of a crime, he said in the release.
On Sunday, officers responded to a complaint of a person who had attempted to drown a female victim. Investigating officers were able to determine that a 16-year-old girl, according to witnesses, was approached by a male subject who attempted to push her head under the water, Blair said.
Max Cordova was accused of attempting to grab and remove the top portion of the girl’s bathing suit before she was able to leave the water.
Cordova, 39, of Morgan City, exited the water and walked to the parking area of the park where he was approached by Dusty Rineheart, 31, of Plaquemine, a relative of the victim, the news release stated.
“According to witnesses as well as statements from Rineheart, he (Rineheart) became enraged and attacked Cordova causing severe facial injuries which required Cordova to be transported to the local hospital for treatment,” Blair said. “This attack took place well after the initial incident and in another physical location, not in an effort to prevent the initial attack of the juvenile.” Cordova was in the parking lot at Lake End Park about 75 yards to 100 yards from the water when Rineheart attacked him, Blair said.
Consequently, the juvenile victim of the alleged attack by Cordova advised officers that she did not want to pursue criminal charges against Cordova, Blair said. “The Morgan City Police Department sought out and contacted the juveniles’ parents to determine what action should be taken to protect the rights of the juvenile victim and to keep the parents informed,” Blair said.
Cordova was charged with molestation of a juvenile and simple battery in the alleged incident with the 16-year-old girl while Rineheart was charged with second degree battery for his alleged attack on Cordova.
Opinions may vary about what action the officer should have taken and whether or not Rineheart should be deemed a hero, Blair said in the news release.
“The Morgan City Police Department stands by its officer’s decision to affect an arrest on Mr. Rineheart based on the facts known and which were presented to them during the investigation. The Morgan City Police Department does not condone nor advocate retaliatory attacks or similar actions,” Blair said.
The department would support any individual who stands with police and comes to the aid of another in an effort to protect life and property, Blair said. “However, this incident and battery occurred well after the initial attack.”
The resulting attack on the suspect, Cordova, caused severe injuries and could have had the potential of becoming a fatal injury, the release stated.
“The Morgan City Police Department is charged with the protection of the rights of all, including suspects in any case,” Blair said. “The attack on the suspect, Cordova, hindered the initial investigation into the motive and reason behind the incident.”
Both Cordova and Rineheart were arrested, and the guilt or innocence of the suspects involved should be determined in a court of law, not by officers in the field who are only in charge of determining whether probable cause exists for an arrest, he said.
In this and many cases like it, only limited information can be released in order to protect all parties involved, including the victims of a particular crime, especially those who are juveniles, Blair said.
“We urge everyone to be cautious in passing judgment based on arrest reports which can contain minimal information, by rumors or by social media assumptions. That duty belongs to those who serve as judges or those who help their community by serving on a jury,” he said.
Applying the law equally and protect the rights of all is paramount, Blair said. “We do not routinely respond to social media remarks, rather to let the public voice its opinion as the individuals deem proper,” Blair said. “By doing so we can learn ways which we, as an organization, may improve our service to our community.”
However, in this incident, the remarks that attempted to vilify the arresting officer and the department, suggestions about posting bonds for individuals or calling those involved a hero without knowing all the facts warranted a response, Blair said.
“If you have any questions regarding any incident or if the Morgan City Police Department can serve its citizens in any way, we will be available,” Blair said referring to the community.
In an effort to keep Morgan City citizens informed regarding their community, the Morgan City Police Department routinely utilizes social media and the Internet to accomplish that task, he said. The daily arrest reports contain basic facts regarding those people who have been charged with crimes, he said.
“Those charged are innocent until proven guilty,” Blair said. “Those basic facts are for informative purposes only and should not be used to determine guilt or innocence. The use of social media and other methods to inform the public can sometimes have many hurdles beyond our control.”

Staff Report

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

Franklin Banner-Tribune
P.O. Box 566, Franklin, LA 70538
Phone: 337-828-3706
Fax: 337-828-2874

Morgan City Daily Review
P.O. Box 948, Morgan City, LA 70381
Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255

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