KIRAN: Sheriff Cazes says ‘I made a mistake. I’m sorry.’ on interrogation tape
WEST BATON ROUGE PARISH, La. (WAFB) - An undercover investigation by the 9News Investigators found an illegal, convicted sex offender working at the home of West Baton Rouge Sheriff Mike Cazes in March. That triggered an investigation by the Department of Corrections (DOC), which turned their findings over to Louisiana State Police (LSP). After LSP wrapped up its investigation, the WAFB 9News Investigators requested the entire case file, as well as the interrogation tapes.
“I’m here with sheriff of West Baton Rouge Parish, Mike Cazes,” said Ronald Moore of DOC as he started to interview Sheriff Cazes.
Moore interviewed Sheriff Cazes about a week after the 9News Investigators uncovered an inmate doing private work at the sheriff’s home. Just six months before, that same inmate, Elmer Castillo, had been convicted of sexual battery against a 13 year old girl.
“I’m here to discuss the possibility of offender labor being performed by offender, Elmer Castillo, at the private residence of Sheriff Cazes,” said Moore in the interview.
The sheriff, who was interviewed at the office of his attorney, Tommy Damico’s, admitted he had Castillo dropped off at his house. He said the two of them then used a van owned by West Baton Rouge Parish to drive to Baton Rouge to pick up a baby crib for the sheriff’s new grandchild. Then, they returned to the sheriff’s home in Port Allen.
“We set up the baby bed. We set up the crib in the thing. He carried the box out. That’s when he noticed media was there and he, he just got nervous,” Sheriff Cazes said to Moore.
The DOC investigated whether the sheriff broke any laws by having an inmate working at his home and by driving a parish van for personal use. DOC forwarded their findings to LSP, which cleared the sheriff of any wrongdoing.
Damico, who was present for the DOC’s interrogation, said the bulk of the work done by the inmate was not assembling the crib, but rather moving around furniture the sheriff uses at home to conduct sheriff’s office business.
“Most of the work or furniture moved was office-related furniture, meaning that it was where he had his work space for his, for the sheriff’s office,” said Damico.
INVESTIGATOR: Was he paid to do this work?
INVESTIGATOR: You did pay him? Can you tell me how much you paid him?
SHERIFF: I gave him $40.
INVESTIGATOR: You gave him $40?
SHERIFF: $35 to $40.
But when investigators later interviewed Castillo, he told them through an interpreter the sheriff did not pay him. The investigator asked why the two stories did not match up.
“That’s the one problem I have with his statement. I believe everything else. I’ve got the sheriff saying that he paid him, and it doesn’t matter that he paid him, but it matters that, that....[inaudible]. If it wasn’t for that, I’d believe his whole story,” said Moore.
At that point in the interrogation, Castillo, his translator, and the investigator left the room for nearly ten minutes. During that time, Castillo listened to the audio of the sheriff saying he did pay him. When the three men returned to the room, Castillo changed his story, confirming he was paid for the work he did.
The sheriff said he left Castillo with the sheriff’s wife while the sheriff went to lunch. Moore asked the sheriff why he would leave a convicted sex offender home alone with his wife.
INVESTIGATOR: So this was at your request?
INVESTIGATOR: You’d asked?
INVESTIGATOR: Had you asked specifically for offender Castillo?
INVESTIGATOR: Is there any particular reason why you would ask for offender Castillo to do that?
SHERIFF: Because he’d been a model prisoner, a model trustee, loved to work.
The sheriff said he needed help moving the furniture and assembling the crib because he could not do it alone.
“Because I’ve got medical records showing I can’t pick up more than 50 pounds, because the calcium in my back is so low that I could break my back in half,” said Sheriff Cazes.
The investigator still seemed puzzled. Of all the inmates to choose from, why did the sheriff bring a convicted sex offender to his house to work?
INVESTIGATOR: I’m not trying to sound condescending. I mean, a man in your position....
SHERIFF: I made a mistake, I’m sorry.
The sheriff said the inmate worked at his home for about two and a half hours before he snuck him out of a back gate to be picked up by a deputy and brought back to the parish jail.
“I saw the cameras out there in front of my house. I wasn’t going to get in that van. I was not going to let them shoot me. I wasn’t going to jeopardize him again, so we went out the back gate,” said Sheriff Cazes.
Moore questioned the timing of how Castillo ended up in the West Baton Rouge Parish Jail in the first place. He was convicted of sexual battery in East Baton Rouge Parish on Nov. 29, 2018. He spent just one day in the EBR Parish jail before being moved across the river to WBR Parish.
INVESTIGATOR: Did anyone reach out to you? Such as a former employee or friend of Castillo to perhaps have him transferred to your facility in order for you to look out for him considering the manner in which he was quickly moved from West Baton Rouge and out of the parish in which he was convicted?
DAMICO: We are not going to answer that question.
On the advice of his lawyer, the sheriff did not answer the question. The 9News Investigators reached out to Damico, but he said they had no comment at this time.
Meanwhile, the FBI said, “This matter is still under review and information is being assessed. In accordance with FBI policy, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.”
LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH CAZES BELOW:
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