Judge Jeffrey Cashe is the Louisiana judge who crime victim advocates say ordered a rape victim to pay child support to the man who impregnated her as a teenager and granted full custody to the accused rapist.
The woman, Crysta Abelseth, is now 32 years old. She told WBRZ that John Barnes raped her when he was 30 years old and she was 16. Read more about Barnes here. Abelseth is being supported by non-profit organizations, including Save Lives, founded by Stacie Triche in Hammond, Louisiana. Read more about her here.
“She’s been forced to pay her perpetrator,” Triche told WBRZ. “Forced to pay her rapist child support and legal fees and give up custody of the child that’s a product of the rape. It makes no sense.”
Cashe’s office did not immediately return a call seeking comment. District Attorney Scott Perrilloux told WBRZ he is reviewing the case. Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission told the news outlet he was requesting an outside law enforcement agency to look at the case.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Goyeneche told the news station. “I’ve never seen anything like this. This is confounding and deeply disturbing.”
“That’s why I’m making a referral to another agency today, for them to take a fresh look at it to see if it rises to the level of an actionable felony, and the agency that I would refer it to would have the authority to seek an arrest warrant and arrest any culpable individuals in this case,” Goyeneche added.
WBRZ reported a paternity test proved Barnes was the father of the child with near certainty, and that he has admitted to being the father of Abelseth’s daughter. The age difference between Barnes and Abelseth would make the case a sexual assault whether or not it was consensual, which Abelseth maintains it was not, according to WBRZ. She filed a police report in 2015 with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, which remains open, the sheriff’s office told the news station.
“He’s well connected,” Abelseth told the news outlet. “He’s threatened me multiple times, saying he has connections in the justice system, so I better be careful and he can take her away anytime he wants to. I didn’t believe him until it happened.”
Barnes owns Gumbeaux Digital Branding, a web company in Ponchatoula which lists Ponchatoula Police as a client.
Here’s what you need to know about Cashe, his family and his background:
1. A Local Woman Started a Petition Claiming Cashe Violated a Judicial Code Regarding Campaign Contributions
A Change.org petition was started seven years ago by a Ponchatoula woman, Erica Thomas, who claims Cashe violated a judicial canon regarding campaign contributions in her case.
“Take action against Judge Jeff Cashe for not recusing himself from this trial knowing that three entities had paid financial contributions to him during his campaign and not follow the Louisiana Judicial Code Canon 3. And violating my right to a fair trial,” the petition said.
It was signed by only 12 supporters. She wrote that she had sent in a complaint to the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana.
“…as a citizen of the United states I have the right to a fair trial and due process. I’m a mother trying to protect her 7 year old son and his best interest,” she wrote on the page.
A court decision filed in 2015 shows the father of the child was granted full custody after Thomas challenged the decision by the 21st Judicial District Court.
Cashe’s LinkedIn page says he is involved with his community through several organizations.
“Jeff is a member of the American Bar Association, Federal Bar Association, and a student pilot,” his page says. “Jeff is on the Board of Directors with the Richard Murphy Hospice Foundation, Hammond Chamber of Commerce and Hammond Downtown Development District, and Former President for the 21st Judicial District Bar Association.”
His District Judge bio also highlighted his service to the community.
“Through his fourteen years in the legal community, Judge Cashe has held a number of leadership positions both in the legal arena and his community,” the bio says.
2. Cashe Described Himself as ‘a Lifelong Republican’ on His Twitter Page, & He Attended a Pro-Life Rally
Cashe started a Twitter account in 2014 when he was running for district judge.
“Second generation attorney and Louisiana native, Jeff Cashe is a lifelong Republican and will bring his leadership and values to the 21st JDC Family Court,” he wrote in his bio.
He has not sent out any tweets on the account since 2014. His full name is Jeffrey Charles Cashe. The Twitter page mainly noted campaign stops, which included church services, prayer meetings and a pro-life rally.
“The pro-life rally at the Knights of Columbus on Friday was amazing. Happy to stand and hold a sign to Raise Up Life!” he wrote October 4, 2014.
Cashe has occasional public posts on his Facebook page, which are typically focused on community causes, veterans’ issues and his family.
His most recent Facebook post drew a flood of biting criticisms. The post was from Father’s Day in 2019, and shared a brief message to his late father.
“Happy ‘Father’s’ Day to John Barnes too? How you have a job is beyond me,” one person wrote.
“I wonder if judge realizes the pain that is about to rain down on him for taking the side of a rapist. He probably thought nobody would find out and he could look after the old boy, but now it’s becoming international news,” another comment said.
Another person wrote that the case seemed like it came straight from “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
3. Cashe Is a Hammond Native & Started His Career in San Antonio Before Returning Home to Join His Late Father’s Firm
Cashe returned back to Louisiana in 2004 and joined the firm his late father founded, then called Cashe, Lewis, Coudrain and Sandage, the bio says. Jeffrey Cashe’s LinkedIn page says he is a native of Hammond.
His father’s firm is now called Cashe, Coudrain & Bass, according to the firm’s website. The firm promotes itself as representing clients in “an array of legal matters” including any “business or employment matter, estate planning, succession, medical malpractice or an insurance matter.” His father’s name was Rodney Cashe.
A memorial to Rodney Cashe describes him as “a prominent attorney and civic leader in Hammond.” He died in 2011 at age 63. Rodney Cashe was also involved with the 21st Judicial District Court.
“Rodney earned his own prominent status in the local bar past president of the Twenty-first Judicial District Bar Association, a founding member of the Twenty-first Judicial District Inns of Court, Twenty-first Judicial delegate to the Louisiana Bar Association and member of the Board of Directors of the Twenty-first Judicial District Indigent Defender Board,” Rodney Cashe’s bio says.
4. Cashe Is a Family Court Judge in Louisiana’s 21st Judicial District Court
Cashe joined the 21st Judicial District Court in 2015 as a family court judge, according to his bio on the court’s website. As district judge, he serves Livingston – St. Helena – Tangipahoa parishes.
He started his career in San Antonio, Texas with Baucum Steed Barker, LLC. There, his career was focused on real estate and oil and gas leasing, his LinkedIn page says.
Cashe attended Louisiana State University and Southeastern Louisiana University, and earned his Juris Doctorate from St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio, his bio says.
His LinkedIn page says he continues to practice law in Texas in addition to Louisiana, and he has a focus on civil matters, particularly family law.
“Today Jeff has expanded his practice to represent clients in most civil matters with a strong emphasis in Family Law. Jeff continues to practice in all Texas state courts, the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, all Louisiana State courts and all US District Courts in Louisiana,” his LinkedIn page says.
5. Cashe Is Married & Has a Daughter; Cashe Is the Oldest of 4 Sons
Cashe is married to his wife, Sandra, and the couple has a daughter who is turning 19 in June 2022, according to his bio. His daughter spoke at his swearing in ceremony when she was 11, according to an archive article from The Livingstone Parish News, which says she “stole the show.”
“I probably haven’t known him as long as you have, but it’s felt like my entire life,” she told the adults in the group, according to the article.
She went on to say her dad was a merciful problem solver, saying he removed spiders from the bathroom without killing them, and lived off protein bars during his election campaign.
Cashe has three younger brothers, all of whom were living and working in the Hammond area in recent years, according to a memorial to his father. The memorial recognized Jeffrey Cashe in particular for his success.
“Rodney is survived by four sons, all of whom live and work in our area. Rodney’s oldest son, Jeff Cashe, was elected Judge of the Family Law Division of the Twenty-First Judicial District Court in 2014,” the memorial says.
Cashe worked for the San Antonio law firm for three years and for the Hammond, Louisiana law firm for 11 years before he was elected to the 21st Judicial Court, according to his LinkedIn page. He has been a district judge for seven years.