St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre acknowledged Thursday his interrogation rooms were rigged with hidden cameras until recently, as a federal whistleblower lawsuit filed by Tregre’s former chief deputy this week alleged.
Tregre, who took office in July 2012, said the equipment was installed by his predecessor, and he was unaware it was there until three months ago.
He downplayed the notion the cameras were used to illegally record discussions between criminal suspects and their attorneys, the most explosive allegation in the lawsuit filed by Tregg Wilson, a lawyer and until recently Tregre’s chief deputy.
“The second set of cameras was set on a continuous loop and recorded the conversations of individuals in the interview rooms, including conversations between persons charged or suspected of a crime and their attorneys,” Wilson’s suit said.
Tregre said Thursday the systems have been removed.
The equipment “recorded 24 hours a day,” he said, a backup in case the room’s main, visible cameras failed.
The system was installed in the department’s four interrogation rooms by Tregre’s predecessor, Wayne Jones, who served four terms as sheriff before losing to Tregre in 2011, the sheriff said.
“I didn’t even know about it myself until somebody pointed it out to me,” said Tregre, who denied wrongdoing.
Jones could not be reached for comment Thursday.