Sheriff tries to block WBRZ reporting of agency's investigation into deputy's sexual misconduct
PORT ALLEN – The West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office hired an out-of-town law firm to unsuccessfully fight a public records request filed by the WBRZ Investigative Unit related to allegations a deputy was under investigation over reports he demanded a woman perform oral sex on him during a traffic stop.
A second woman came forward, WBRZ learned, alleging a similar encounter with the deputy while an internal affairs investigation unfolded.
The investigation surrounds Deputy Ben Arceneaux. Records related to the case were released after WBRZ fought with the sheriff’s department to release its internal affairs investigation. The WBRZ Investigative Unit started asking about the case in March 2018.
WBRZ learned Arceneaux was suspended for two weeks and transferred to the sheriff’s office work release building for another two weeks and returned to his patrol position after being disciplined.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit was able to review public government documents related to the case after the television station’s attorneys got involved. The records were released at the end of June.
The documents paint a disturbing picture. Investigators wrote that on Friday, January 19, 2018, Arceneaux stopped a woman he had been stalking for at least a month. The reports highlighted the interaction with the woman and reported Arceneaux asked "how far would she go to get out of a ticket?"
Then, on another occasion, the report outlines Arceneaux followed her again and elevated his actions. Arceneaux got out of his patrol SUV and "placed one hand against her throat and the other hand grabbed her hair on the back of her head."
The rest of the report is heavily redacted, but the woman’s family explained to the WBRZ Investigative Unit the story behind the blocked words. They said Arceneaux stuck his penis in the victim's face and made her perform oral sex on him while he was on duty.
"This officer poses a risk to the public and a liability to the agency he represents," Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche said.
“Arceneaux did not deny the claim but also thought it was mutual,” the investigative file reported.
A SECOND VICTIM COMES FORWARD
If one incident wasn't alarming enough, as West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's officials were investigating this case, a different woman also came forward on Friday, February 9, 2018, alleging Arceneaux did the same thing to her.
"She heard of the incident and was nervous as Dy. Arceneaux has done something similar to her in the past," the report noted.
The report stated Arceneaux met the woman on a gravel road and that's when things escalated.
"Dy. Arceneaux grabbed her by the neck and her hair pulling her around," the report said. "She pushed Dy. Arceneaux off of her and told him ‘no.’"
Unlike the first complaint, the second victim's statement only resulted in two paragraphs in the report. It does not appear that the sheriff's office fully investigated that case.
"The second victim should have been identified," Goyeneche said. "A statement should have been taken from her. I think the sheriff should have considered if the allegations were verified of the first victim and the second victim. He [Arceneaux] shouldn't be carrying a badge and be a deputy any longer."
LIGHT DISCIPLINE, SHERIFF REFUSES TO TALK
Following the internal affairs investigation, Arceneaux was transferred off the road for two weeks for conduct unbecoming. He was also suspended without pay for two weeks.
Nearly three months after the WBRZ Investigative Unit began seeking the records, the sheriff's office stopped talking about the incident.
On July 9, 2018, WBRZ Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto called and left messages with Sheriff Mike Cazes. Nakamoto wanted to conduct an interview for a television story about the incident.
On July 11, 2018, text messages were sent to Cazes asking for an interview, calls were placed later that day with his office. A woman who answered the phone said she’d get a message to the sheriff.
With no contact from the sheriff, calls were once again placed to Cazes on Monday, July 16, 2018, asking for an interview before the story was broadcast on the six o’clock news on Channel 2.
Goyeneche believes the sheriff's silence is deafening.
"He [Arceneaux] should have been fired, and the district attorney's office should have been consulted about criminal charges on this," Goyeneche said. "That is the essence of a battery and him doing this under the color of law, potentially makes it a malfeasant act, both criminal violations under Louisiana law."
OTHER SHERIFFS FLABBERGASTED
The WBRZ Investigative Unit checked with other sheriffs across the state. All of them said if a deputy who worked for their department did what Arceneaux did that he or she would not have a job.
However, those sheriffs all declined to go on camera or be identified citing a long-standing "gentleman's agreement" where sheriffs don't talk about other sheriffs.
The way this all went down and the way Arceneaux was treated, leave some to question what influence Arceneaux has in the department or what he has on Sheriff Cazes to get a free pass like this.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit reached out to District Attorney Ricky Ward about this case. Just like Cazes, Ward did not return phone calls and text messages.
Sources tell us Arceneaux has been employed by the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office for about ten years.