PORT ALLEN, LA (WAFB) - A law enforcement watchdog says the actions of West Baton Rouge Sheriff Mike Cazes may rise to criminal misconduct.
“Sheriff took an oath to follow the laws and enforce the laws of Louisiana and there are at least three or four violations of state law and or constitutional provision that he may be in violation of,” Rafael Goyeneche, the president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission told WAFB.
“Shocking and disturbing.” That’s the response from Goyeneche, a former prosecutor turned watchdog group president, on the sheriff’s actions.
The 9News Investigators brought Goyeneche their findings from a stakeout at the home of West Baton Rouge Sheriff Mike Cazes on Mar. 8.
In the six hours 9News was there, we found Elmer Castillo, a convicted sex offender who should be in jail serving five years, working unsupervised at the sheriff’s home.
Castillo was seen doing yard work and helping around the house. Also, a van belonging to the parish was backed into the sheriff’s driveway. A van the sheriff said he was using to haul furniture to his home.
“That’s public asset. So, there is gasoline involved and those assets cannot be used for personal purposes,” Goyeneche said.
"Is it a violation if the sheriff himself is driving the work release van,” Kiran Chawla asked.
“Again, you're using public assets for personal purposes,” Goyeneche explained. It's why the former prosecutor says that alone could rise to the charge of unauthorized use of a moveable.
“Additionally, you’re dealing with potential malfeasance on the part of the sheriff. There’s also abuse of office and that doesn’t even get into the violation of the state constitution,” Goyeneche said.
The 9News Investigators dug further into Elmer Castillo’s past and obtained a court order saying in February 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Castillo is a native and citizen of Nicaragua and in the U.S. illegally.
Several court dates were set for Castillo, but he did not provide required paperwork or show up to court.
It's why a judge ordered Castillo be removed from the United States to Nicaragua. All of that happened before July 2014 when Castillo was accused of having sex with a 13-year-old. But he was not arrested on that charge until 2017.
“He was on the run for three years,” explained Will Jorden, who prosecuted Castillo’s case.
The jury in that case returned a guilty verdict for sexual battery. Castillo was sentenced to five years hard labor effective last November and handed over to the Louisiana Department of Corrections.
They moved him to the West Baton Rouge Work Release building where he was assigned to clean up and do work at their facility. “He was convicted, he is, convicted of a sex offense, sexual battery,” Jorden said.
Given his status of being a convicted sex offender and being in the U.S. illegally, Goyeneche says Castillo may be a flight risk.
“This offender isn’t eligible to participate in the state’s work release program because he is a sex offender and the fact that the sheriff is using this offender to work at his house doing handyman work, I think the sheriff owes an explanation to the public,” Goyeneche said.
The 9News Investigators called Sheriff Cazes on March 12 and he did not answer. We were told he’s still advised by his attorney not to talk to us. Goyeneche went on to say Cazes’ actions may also violate the Louisiana Constitution that prohibits use of public assets & equipment for personal use.
“This is not a rookie deputy; this is the sheriff. He has over 30 years of experience and he’s been the sheriff for multiple terms. He’s the chief law enforcement officer,” Goyeneche said. “It would be unusual and deny logic that this was the first and only time that the sheriff has used inmate labor to do work at his house.”
It’s why Goyeneche says an investigation is needed, but by someone other than the District Attorney’s Office in West Baton Rouge Parish given their close relationship to the sheriff’s office.
“That investigation cannot be handled internally. It needs to be by an external law enforcement agency, whether it be state or federal,” Goyeneche said.
The 9News Investigators have been informed that the Department of Corrections is investigating how this happened. The FBI says the bureau is aware of the information and “are taking it under consideration.”
Meanwhile, West Baton Rouge Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton told the 9News Investigators, “We are going to meet with the DOC and see what their investigation says and go from there. I take an oath to prosecute and support the constitution of Louisiana and I will do my job."