Sexual assault suspect released on bond


Carlos Pena Cifuentes was arrested on Saturday, Sept. 21 for sexual battery. He was released on bond of $3,500. Photo credit: Courtesy of New Orleans Police

Erin Snodgrass

Editor’s Note: The District Attorney has subsequently refused charges in this case. Click here for the most up-to-date information.

The Loyola foreign exchange student arrested Saturday, Sept. 21 in connection with the most recent sexual battery at The Boot Bar and Grill, is out on bond.

Carlos Pena Cifuentes, 21, posted $3,500 bail after his first hearing at Magistrate Court on Sunday, Sept. 22.

Cifuentes, was arrested Saturday evening in the 2200 block of Calhoun St, according to arrest records. Chief of Loyola Police Todd Warren said that New Orleans Police, Loyola police and Tulane police were all present for the arrest.

“I think it’s just a great example of how things are supposed to work,” Warren said. “I think the three agencies coming together to make that arrest is probably not that common and it was refreshing to see.”

New Orleans police were able to identify Cifuentes as the suspect after The Boot Bar and Grill, the site of the sexual battery, gave his name to Loyola and Tulane police.

Warren said that officers knew who they were looking for but didn’t have his name. The Boot was able to provide that information.

He also added that the Uptown bar became more helpful after each incident.

“They were never uncooperative, but as the alerts came out, they began to really participate and communicate,” he said.

Although a representative from The Boot declined to discuss the specific cases, he did say that the bar is taking additional precautionary methods to ensure customer safety. According to Alexander Abbyad, director of operations for The Boot, there will be enhanced security inside the building and a nightly contracted detail on the premises. Employees will be required to attend alcohol and sexual assault awareness training hosted by Tulane. He also said the bar will now provide lids for any customer who wants one and said management will continue to work closely with law enforcement.

“Our first priority is the safety and well-being of customers,” Abbyad said. “If they feel uncomfortable we want them to come and be able to talk to us.”

On the night of the incident at The Boot, the victim said that Cifuentes approached her, spoke to her in Spanish, then grabbed her buttocks and reached between her legs, according to arrest records. Police said she then pushed him away, struck him and went outside with her friends.

Once outside, the victim noticed that Cifuentes had relocated outside and told police she took a video and picture of him. She also informed a bartender about what she said had happened. Soon after, she said Cifuentes approached her again and asked if she wanted to go home with him to have sex with him and his friends. She refused and then left.

When she reported the battery to LUPD on Friday, Sept. 20, she also showed officers the picture and video she had taken of the man. Employees at The Boot and LUPD were able to identify the man as Cifuentes.

A photographic lineup was presented to the victim and police said she identified Cifuentes as the person who touched her inappropriately. Police then obtained a warrant for arrest.

Cifuentes is originally from Madrid, Spain, and was booked into the Orleans Parish Justice Center following his arrest without incident. After posting bond, Cifuentes was released and told to stay away from the victim, although the judge did not issue a stay away order and allowed him to return to campus and class. He also had to surrender his passport.

The District Attorney’s Office has 150 days to make a charging decision in the case.

Although the university has yet to release an official statement on Cifuentes’ current status, Patricia Murret, associate director of Public Affairs, said that Cifuentes would not be on campus for the foreseeable future.

In cases of sexual crimes, universities are required by Title IX to conduct an administrative investigation. In Title IX investigations, universities must only prove guilt through a preponderance of evidence as opposed to the legal measure beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof for university investigations is 51% or more likely than not that the crime happened.

While Warren was unable to comment on the specifics of Cifuentes’ investigation, he did speak about standard protocol for these Title IX investigations and said there is no easy answer about whether or not students being investigated are allowed to be on campus.

“It depends on the case, it depends on what measures are reasonable to protect the student,” he said. “This is not a one-size-fits-all.”

Despite Saturday’s arrest, Warren knows there is still work to be done in solving the first two assaults that happened on Aug. 24, and Sept. 5 respectively, both of which were also initiated at The Boot.

“They are still ongoing and we’re probably working as hard or harder than we ever have on those,” Warren said. “Hopefully, some things will come to light that will give us an edge.”

Still, Warren encouraged students to remain vigilant and look after one another.

“I certainly don’t want our student body to feel paralyzed by fear,” he said. “And to compliment our student body, they’ve done a really good job of communicating with us and bringing us information that they think is pertinent, and I would encourage them to continue that.”

Warren said that there is currently nothing linking Cifuentes to those first two assaults except police believe he fits the description of the offender in both, though Warren did say that Cifuentes’ arrest was helpful in regards to the remaining investigations.

“A lot of cases we don’t have a lot of leads, but I think this one is very solvable,” Warren said. “It’s gonna take some tenacity, it’s gonna take going down a lot of dead ends, but I’m very optimistic that we can come up with something.”