sirens stock police lights

File photo

GONZALES — When former Assumption Chamber of Commerce official Seth G. Breaux was arrested last year and accused of recording a man in a St. Gabriel bathroom, a man who thought he had been recorded in a different incident saw a news report about it on TV.

"Hey, I think that's the same guy," the man said, according to recent testimony from Gonzales Police Detective James Poe.

The man had filed a complaint in January 2020 claiming someone had filmed him while he was on the toilet at the Tanger Outlets Mall in Gonzales. But he had only seen the alleged voyeur's shoes — and the investigation had stalled as detectives awaited leads that could put a face to those shoes. 

But then he saw a television report months later about Breaux's arrest in neighboring Iberville Parish. He called Gonzales city police, who conducted an investigation — which relied heavily on cellphone data and the shoes Breaux allegedly wore — that led to additional charges being filed.

Poe offered his testimony this week at the Parish Courthouse in Gonzales as an Ascension judge agreed to uphold the police arrest warrant for Breaux on a video voyeurism count.

But the hearing also revealed some weaknesses in the case. Ascension prosecutors will face a far tougher evidentiary standard at trial.

Breaux was arrested in August on the Gonzales voyeurism count and has since pleaded not guilty.

In the St. Gabriel incident, Breaux had been accused of video-recording a man using the bathroom at Fred's Travel Center truck stop casino on La. 30 on April 27, 2020.

In January, he pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of criminal mischief and received a suspended jail sentence with probation, fines and court costs. 

Breaux, 26, of Pierre Part, was the chairman of the Assumption Chamber of Commerce at the time of his first arrest on May 4, 2020, in St. Gabriel. He was also a candidate for clerk of court in 2019.

After the Ascension victim's tip about the truck stop incident just a few miles down La. 30 from the Gonzales mall, Poe testified on Tuesday that detectives dug deeper into the St. Gabriel case.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

An analysis of cellphone and cell tower records showed Breaux's cellphone had pinged off towers in the immediate vicinity of the Tanger Outlets mall around the time that the man alleged the voyeurism incident occurred in January 2020, Poe said.

John Wilbert III, Breaux's defense attorney, sought to point out the possibility of the inexactness of the analysis, asking Poe to describe the location and range of the towers. He argued Breaux could have been miles away at the time his phone pinged on towers around the mall.

Poe said the analysis, which relied on a variety of cell data, was conducted by the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's Office and peer-reviewed for its conclusions.

But Poe also acknowledged that the victim in Gonzales never saw the man whom he caught filming him with a cellphone. The voyeur had fled the bathroom after the victim had banged on a stall wall and caused the phone to hit the ground.

The victim had only gotten a good look at the alleged voyeur's shoes through the gaps in the closed bathroom stall door, Poe said. The man was unable to dress quickly enough and leave the bathroom to spot the voyeur at the open-air mall full of people, Poe said.

But when detectives first talked with Breaux, Poe said, he noticed the similarity of the shoes that Breaux was wearing then to the description that the victim had given of the shoes worn by the alleged voyeur. 

Poe testified that detectives created a photographic lineup of six sample shoe images that were the same as and similar to what Breaux had worn when he was with Gonzales detectives. The man was unable to identify the correct shoe, however.

"Yes, the victim chose the wrong pair of shoes," Poe responded to a question from Judge Cody Martin.

In the end, though, Martin, of the 23rd Judicial District Court, ruled Gonzales detectives had probable cause to make the arrest.

In the St. Gabriel case, that victim also only saw Breaux's shoes, but detectives were able to match video surveillance of Breaux to those shoes, police have said.

Breaux is next expected to appear in Ascension court June 14.


Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.