Deputies who reported a Texas sheriff to public corruption investigators say nothing was done

Jul 11, 2023, 10:05 PM

DALLAS (AP) — A Texas sheriff who’s been the subject of years of complaints about dysfunction and corruption was repeatedly reported to state and federal law enforcement by his own deputies — yet an outside investigation never gained momentum, according to interviews and records reviewed by The Associated Press.

Two of San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers’ former deputies said they tried to get the Texas Rangers to look into wrongdoing in the sheriff’s office when they worked there, but the state’s elite investigative agency did little to pursue a case. One of them later gave a detailed interview to an officer with the FBI’s regional public corruption taskforce but said it was met with the same result.

Despite the reports from members of law enforcement, the state and federal agencies appear not to have pursued what an AP investigation found were longstanding accusations that Capers’ office has ignored misconduct and neglected basic police work while pursuing asset seizures that boost its $3.5 million budget but don’t always hold up in court.

The small, Houston-area sheriff’s office drew national scrutiny amid a four-day search for a man accused of killing five neighbors in April when they complained that his late-night shooting was keeping their baby awake. The sheriff’s office disclosed in response to AP’s questions that deputies took nearly four times as long as Capers initially said to arrive at the mass shooting.

Last year, county leaders paid nearly $50,000 to have a police consulting firm examine the sheriff’s office but disregarded its recommendation to ask the Rangers’ public corruption squad to investigate. The consultant’s report says Capers fostered a “fear-based” culture, oversaw the improper seizure of tens of thousands of dollars of property and that his deputies failed to follow up on reports of 4,000 crimes.

“Everybody in law enforcement knows what’s going on, but nobody will do anything,” said Michael Flynt, a former deputy who won a $240,000 settlement after suing the sheriff’s office for retaliation when it fired him and charged him with crimes in 2018. A judge later dismissed the charges.

Capers did not respond to requests for comment. His second-in-command previously called the accusations against the sheriff “straight-up lies,” stressed their “good working relationship” with the Rangers and said the state agency is welcome to investigate their office “top to bottom.”

A Rangers spokesperson said Tuesday they “are not conducting an investigation into this matter.”

Flynt, a veteran Houston-area officer who Capers personally recruited, said he drove to the regional state police office in the fall of 2017. He said he spoke with three Rangers and showed them documents supporting his accusations, including that Capers improperly handled seized assets and dismissed concerns about an affair between a deputy and an informant in a series of gambling cases.

Flynt said the Rangers told him they would need approval from their higher-ups to pursue an investigation and that he never heard back.

The next year, Michael Voytko said he called one of the same Rangers in tears after finding a tracking device on the bottom of his San Jacinto County patrol car. Voytko recalled telling the Ranger that he was “terrified” for his safety after challenging what he saw as wrongdoing in the sheriff’s office. He said the Ranger responded that he would write a report but nothing could be done because it was a sheriff’s department vehicle.

In October 2020, after Voytko left the sheriff’s office for another job in law enforcement, he spoke with an FBI taskforce officer. Records reviewed by AP show the officer took detailed notes, writing that Voytko’s allegations focused on Capers misusing seized funds and that other deputies could testify to what had been going on.

An FBI spokesman said the agency doesn’t discuss complaints and neither confirms nor denies the existence of investigations. Voytko said he never saw any sign of one.

“To my knowledge, nothing was ever done,” he said.

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Deputies who reported a Texas sheriff to public corruption investigators say nothing was done