GONZALES — Ascension Parish sheriff's detectives conducted a sting on one of their own last spring, trying to catch a then-school security officer after hearing he had asked a 16-year-old public school student for oral sex while on-duty at her high school in February, sheriff's documents show.
The now-former deputy, Fred Corder, agreed to meet with the girl after she texted him at the detectives' direction last June 4, according to images of text messages sent back and forth that were part of an investigative file obtained through a public records request.
"U wanna meet me at that store/don't have bf anymore/I can do what u wanted/when you wanna meet," she wrote, telling Corder she no longer had a boyfriend.
"I'll meet you at 11:50," Corder responded.
"Do you want oral or other stuff," she added. "Do u wanna meet at the store are (sic) by the bridge."
"I'll meet you at the store," Corder texted back, providing a description of his sport utility vehicle.
The investigators wanted to see if Corder would take the bait, possibly supporting sexual misconduct allegations the girl had made about him, but they arrived at the store too late, according to their report. Corder was brought in for questioning and told investigators he had mentored the girl previously and had planned only to pick her up and take her to lunch. He was never charged.
In their probe, deputies discovered on Corder's phone that he had sent the girl a picture of his ankle tattoo, which he initially denied having done, and she sent him an unsolicited photo of her breasts, the documents show.
Without evidence of physical contact between Corder and the girl or Corder's specific response to her texts about whether he wanted oral sex, investigators and local prosecutors don't believe there was sufficient probable cause to arrest Corder.
He was initially allowed to resign pending the investigation but his status ultimately was changed to involuntary resignation as the sheriff's probe ended last fall.
That would likely have been the end of the matter until a now-former captain in the sheriff's office, C.J. Matthews, told the Attorney General's office he wasn't satisfied with the outcome. The 29-year veteran who is considering his own run to become sheriff this fall said the current office-holder — his stepbrother and former chief deputy Bobby Webre — and other top officers wanted to keep quiet about the allegations while the daughter of then-Sheriff Jeff Wiley was running for judge.
Initially, the Attorney General's office declined to look into Matthews' complaint about the Corder case was handled. In December, it began reviewing the initial allegations against Corder.
"Our office takes every complaint seriously, and we will continue to do all we legally can to get justice for crime victims," said Millard Mulé, communications director for the state Department of Justice. "As this is an ongoing matter to which we were recently appointed and are still receiving and reviewing files, we will not comment further until the appropriate time."
Wiley's daughter won her election, Wiley resigned as promised and Webre took over as sheriff this month. Webre has pledged to help the AG's investigators.
Matthews claimed whistleblower status in October, complaining he had been retaliated against with a poor performance rating after making waves. Then, he says, Webre retaliated and effectively fired him last Jan. 14, 11 months before becoming eligible for retirement.
"When a good cop has the integrity to report the wrongdoing of his fellow officers, that should never be tolerated," Matthews' lawyer, David LaCerte, said Thursday.
Webre sees it differently. He said Matthews resigned after turning down two openings in the sheriff's administration that would have kept him at his same rank and pay.
Corder, who has moved to eastern Texas, did not return repeated messages left on his Louisiana cellphone number over the past month. Calls to family members have also not been returned and as well as a message left with one of his new neighbors.
Attempts to find and speak with the teen have been unsuccessful. Ascension public school officials refused to answer questions, including when they were notified about the allegation against Corder, but said any incidents on campus are handled appropriately.
The initial investigation began after deputies looked into the girl's relationship with another older man with whom she had been living and who is now facing separate charges. While talking to deputies May 30 about that man, the girl told deputies that Corder had befriended her at school, texted with her and in February asked her for oral sex, a sheriff's report says. She declined.
Unable to corroborate the girl's story with the original messages — she had lost her phone — deputies set up the June 4 sting but showed up too late to find Corder at the meeting location, the documents show. By July 12, Ascension Parish investigators reached a consensus that they couldn't prove a case; the District Attorney's office also couldn't find probable cause.
The case was never taken to a judge or a grand jury. The Advocate showed the case file and the results of its interviews to three lawyers — one defense attorney and two retired Baton Rouge prosecutors. They couldn't agree on whether a crime occurred, but two said charges were at least possible.
Matthews, who worked at the sheriff's training center, had initially approached The Advocate about the allegations over Corder in late November but would not speak publicly. Subsequent records' requests from the Sheriff's Office corroborated Matthews' initially off-the-record claims about the misconduct allegations raised against Corder, the attempted sting, the lack of an arrest and his complaint to the Attorney General's Office.
At the time Matthews first approached The Advocate, he was being represented by Kim Landry, an Ascension Parish lawyer who lost in last year's race for judge against Wiley's daughter.
In early December, Matthews retained LaCerte, who handles whistleblower cases. LaCerte is a partner with Scott Sternberg, who has represented The Advocate in open records cases. LaCerte said Sternberg is not involved in the Matthews case.
Wiley, the former sheriff, has in the past arrested and publicized his arrests of deputies accused of misconduct. Matthews, however, believes the Corder investigation was kept quiet because of the election. Webre stood to benefit, too, Matthews said. Wiley stepped down when his daughter was elected judge, and he tapped Webre to take his place pending a special election.
Matthews also said he was approached by an intermediary with an offer to let him keep his job until retirement if he stopped talking about Corder.
"None of that happened. None of it happened," Wiley said.
Wiley said he believes Matthews is unhappy because he was passed over for a promotion last year and is seeking publicity to build momentum for a sheriff's campaign later this year.