Slidell Man Found Guilty of Raping Young Girl
May 30, 2024

District Attorney Collin Sims reports that on May 30, 2024, a St. Tammany Parish 12-
person jury found 56-year-old Tommy Adolph Culotta of Slidell guilty of the second degree rape
of a young girl. Assistant District Attorneys Iain Dover and Tiffany Dover teamed up to present
evidence to the jury during the 4-day trial with Judge Tara Zeller presiding. The jury deliberated
for approximately 7 hours, spread over two days, before returning its unanimous guilty verdict.

Testimony at trial established that in May, 2022, the defendant and a 13-year-old female
relative spent several days at a hotel in Covington. During their stay, the defendant consumed
large amounts of alcohol and acted inappropriately toward the young female on multiple
occasions, making her uncomfortable. The child voiced her discomfort which led to
intermittent arguments between the two. During the last episode of arguing, the defendant
forced the child down on one of the hotel beds and proceeded to sexually assault her. When
she had the opportunity, the young girl called her mother to come get her but did not initially
disclose what the defendant had done. Several days later, the victim informed her mother that
the defendant had sexually assaulted her. The mother notified police and Detective Adam
Driskell with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office was placed in charge of the investigation.

The victim was transported to the Children’s Hospital Audrey Hepburn Care Center in New
Orleans for a forensic medical examination. She was also interviewed by a forensic interviewer
at the Children’s Advocacy Center – Hope House. At both times, the victim described the
defendant as forcefully engaging in sexual intercourse with her against her will. Detective
Driskell presented his investigative findings to a St. Tammany judge who in turn signed a
warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Five months later, authorities located the defendant and
arrested him. During a post-arrest interview of the defendant, Detective Driskell informed the
defendant of the young girl’s allegations. The defendant acknowledged spending a few days
with the victim at a Covington hotel but denied drinking alcohol to excess and denied assaulting
the young girl.

In opening statements to the jury, defense counsel told the jury the victim is simply a liar.
During the trial, impactful testimony was heard from the young girl and her mother. After
prosecutors had concluded questioning the victim, defense counsel did not ask the victim any
questions. The jury also heard from Detective Driskell and an expert pediatric physician who
examined the victim. Through the doctor’s testimony, prosecutors were able to explain to the
jury that a “delayed disclosure” by a victim of sexual assault is not uncommon. The defendant
chose to testify and denied raping the victim. However, he admitted he at times lies “to get out
of trouble.”

During closing arguments, ADA Tiffany Dover reviewed the strength of evidence with the
jury. She said the victim and the defendant both deserve justice, but that justice has different
consequences for each of them. Defense counsel argued the defendant is an alcoholic but not
a rapist, saying “he needs to be in treatment, not in jail.” In response, ADA Iain Dover didn’t
dispute that alcoholism is a disease but that “raping someone is a choice.” He also pointed out
how defense counsel couldn’t formulate a single question to cast doubt on the victim’s
consistent account of what the defendant had done to her. He told the jury that defense
counsel was asking the jury to do something defense counsel couldn’t even do itself, that is call
the victim a liar to her face. He urged the jury to give the victim the justice she was entitled to.

The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced on June 11, 2024. A conviction for second
degree rape carries a sentence of up to forty years in prison without benefit of parole.