Lawsuit says St. John sheriff rigged interview rooms with hidden cameras

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 28, 2013 at 10:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 28 at 11:00 PM

Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mikeperlstein

NEW ORLEANS -- The former chief deputy of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's Office filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday containing allegations that Sheriff Mike Tregre, his former boss, broke the law by rigging interview rooms with hidden cameras.

In his suit, Tregg Wilson claims the cameras continuously videotaped the rooms, including privileged conversations between suspects and their attorneys. Wilson claims the cameras were installed in addition to visible cameras used during interrogations.

Wilson stated in the lawsuit that after the sheriff refused to remove the cameras, he reported his discovery to the St. John district attorney and state police.

“Both have opened investigations,” according to the lawsuit. “The Louisiana State Police took statements from multiple persons, all of which were believed to be recorded.”

Wilson, an attorney, stated that when he warned the sheriff that attorney-client privilege was being violated, the sheriff fired him, then falsely told sheriff’s office staff that Wilson had resigned.

In addition to telling Tregre that the camera violated state and federal law, “Wilson advised Defendant Tregre that this practice of secretly recorded conversations in the interview rooms would potentially jeopardize criminal prosecutions.”

Wilson’s attorney, Todd Slack, said his client was fired within two weeks after telling the sheriff he would not be party to what he viewed as illegal activity.

“He was shocked to find out this was happening,” Slack said. “He told the responsible parties that they needed to stop immediately.”

“The sheriff indicated that he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong,” Slack said.

Wilson joined the sheriff’s office in July 2012 when Tregre was sworn in. He said he was fired on June 10, 2013.

Late Wednesday night, Sheriff Tregre responded to the allegations in a telephone interview saying that a back recording system had been placed in the interior rooms at the detective bureau in Saint John the Baptist Sheriff's Office under the previous administration.

Tregre told us by phone Wednesday night:

"As soon as I found out about the recording device the practice was discontinued, this practice was stopped. [Wilson] put it upon himself to file a criminal complaint which was investigated independently by the Louisiana State Police.  Myself and members of the Saint John the Baptist Sheriff's Office were all cleared."

In the lawsuit, Wilson asks for whistleblower status and unspecified damages. Slack said Wilson has returned to work as an attorney in private practice.

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