A New Orleans police officer who was convicted of raping a 7-year-old girl will spend the rest of his life behind bars after his sentencing Tuesday.
The lifetime term without probation or parole for Michael Thomassie, 41, follows a trial marked by prosecutors’ seizure of the cellphone they said Thomassie used to send raunchy texts to his girlfriend and a courtroom selfie. A jury convicted the 13-year veteran cop Aug. 20 of the aggravated rape of his then-girlfriend’s daughter, a second-grader, in 2003.
One fellow Orleans Parish inmate drew a 950-day contempt of court penalty by heckling Thomassie when he stood in front of the judge Tuesday, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported.
“Put him in a cell with me! I’ll turn him over and make him a mop!” Erik Beasley yelled amid a series of outbursts.
The victim, a 19-year-old woman who isn’t being identified because she is a rape victim, testified in the case that she had thought of Thomassie as her stepfather. Prosecutors said the financial dependence of the victim’s substance-abusing mother on Thomassie led in part to the decades-long delay in cuffing and trying Thomassie, according to the Times-Picayune,
The victim’s father praised lead prosecutor Parish Assistant District Attorney Laura Rodrigue’s handling of the case.
“I didn’t think we were going to get a fair shake,” he told the newspaper. “He’s a New Orleans cop, here in New Orleans. I said, ‘We ain’t never going to get a fair shake here.’ But it worked out good. He’s getting what he deserves.”
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier had helped set the tone for a tense trial when she ruled Thomassie’s courtroom texts to another officer and his girlfriend could be used in court. Rodrigue said in her opening statement that Thomassie received advice from the other cop on his phone during jury selection, the Times-Picayune reported at the time.
A local court reporter tweeted the photo of Thomassie with his newly clean shaven chin that prosecutors said he sent to his new girlfriend at the same time. Rodrigue told jurors the couple had flirted about whether he preferred women to be shaved.
“He responds, ‘No hair is best,'” Rodrigue said, according to the newspaper. “Hours before sitting in court for trial for the aggravated rape of a 7- or 8-year-old girl.”
Thomassie, who was wearing the red jumpsuit for maximum security prisoners Tuesday, hasn’t been officially fired from the New Orleans Police Department. Officials from the department placed him on administrative reassignment in July 2014 after the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau and Child Abuse Unit launched their investigation.
Superintendent Michael Harrison said after Thomassie’s August conviction that he had suspended Thomassie without pay and started the process of firing him.
“I am disgusted by the unspeakable actions of this officer, and based on this conviction, I am taking immediate steps to remove him from within our ranks,” Harrison told the Times-Picayune. “There is no place in this department for officers who choose to commit acts of violence. My thoughts and prayers are with the victim, her family and the family of Officer Thomassie during this tragic situation.”
Thomassie declined to testify. Defense attorney Pat Fanning said Tuesday his client has become indigent and intends to appeal the conviction with the help of the Louisiana Appellate Project.