Tuesday, November 30, 2004
By Matthew Brown
West Bank bureau
Democrats are seizing on a previously undisclosed trespassing and illegal
trapping citation against Republican Billy Tauzin III to buttress their
argument that he is not mature enough to succeed his father in Congress.
Three months before he announced he was running for Louisiana's 3rd
Congressional District seat, Tauzin and a friend were cited by state
wildlife agents in Terrebonne Parish for trapping 46 nutria without a permit
while trespassing on private property, according to state records.
Tauzin dismissed the Feb. 29 incident as "a simple mistake," and his
campaign said it resulted in only "a small fine." He said he unknowingly
crossed onto private property while trapping with a friend, identified in
state records as Anthony Giardina.
But the campaign of Democratic rival Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville
said the violations -- coupled with Tauzin's 2002 guilty plea to drunken
driving in St. Tammany Parish -- show a "pattern of immaturity and
"Little Billy wasn't being honest when he said he cleaned up his act,"
said Melancon campaign manager Casey O'Shea. "How can the people of
Louisiana trust Billy Tauzin?"
Tauzin, who lives in Thibodaux, is seeking the seat held since 1980 by
his father, U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin Jr., R-Chackbay, who is retiring.
His drunken driving conviction was first reported in May, but the
trapping violations were not disclosed until the Melancon campaign made them
public on Monday.
Melancon's camp alleged the trapping infraction violated the terms of
Tauzin's parole from the DWI case. Tauzin's campaign said the probationary
period ended in December 2003, two months before the trapping incident.
The maximum fine that could have been levied in the trapping case was
$250, said Winton Vidrine, chief of enforcement for the Louisiana Department
of Wildlife and Fisheries. Terrebonne District Attorney Joseph Waitz, whose
office had jurisdiction over the case, could not be reached Monday.
Given the havoc that nutria cause on Louisiana's shrinking wetlands, it's
debatable whether the case will hurt or help Tauzin's campaign in the final
days before Saturday's runoff election. State officials are so concerned
about the marsh destruction that they pay a $4-per-pelt bounty on the
marsh-eating rodents, but one must have an official permit.
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Matthew Brown can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (504)