One of the common reactions to the allegations about Rep. Charles Boustany published in the new book Murder In The Bayou, namely that he had employed as one of his congressional staffers the owner of a whorehouse in Jennings, Louisiana at which a number of the eight murdered prostitutes covered in the book had plied their trade and even that Boustany had a client relationship with one or more of the victims, was that while Boustany’s denials were fine you’d expect that if the allegations were false he’d be suing.
And now, he’s doing just that…
Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany has filed a defamation lawsuit against New York City-based Simon & Schuster Inc., which recently published a book that includes allegations that Boustany was involved with prostitutes who were killed in Jefferson Davis Parish.
Ethan Brown, author of the book, Murder on the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8?, is also named as a defendant in the suit, which was filed today in the 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette.
Citing multiple anonymous sources, the book includes a chapter that claims Boustany was involved with the prostitutes who were killed. It does not allege the congressman is involved in the slayings. Boustany and his wife have denied the claims.
“Dr. Boustany hired me to defend his integrity and the honor of his family. And that’s what I intend to do, aggressively,” reads a statement from attorney Jimmy Faircloth of Faircloth, Melton & Sobel, who is representing Boustany in the suit. “The law does not allow someone to slander another person to sell books, not even public officials. Mr. Brown either made up the story or he’s peddling political garbage that he knew or should have known is false. It’s easy to spread hateful lies about others, but it’s not easy to defend it under oath while facing the prospects of perjury. This lie will be exposed, and those responsible will be held accountable.”
Will Boustany win the suit? He probably doesn’t particularly care. It looks like good PR to support your denial with a lawsuit, and since he’s a little more than a month away from Election Day in a campaign that will decide whether he’ll be either a U.S. Senator or a private citizen by January the good PR is what’s most important right now.
But victory in that suit is going to be a little difficult. As a congressman Boustany is a public figure, and therefore to win a defamation suit he’s got to prove malice on the part of the defendants, or at least reckless disregard for the truth. Having read the book, what Brown does is repeat the accusation made by others while also repeating Boustany’s denial of it. That’s hard to ratchet up to malice or reckless disregard. Brown also goes through business filings to prove that Martin Guillory, the Boustany staffer in question, was in fact the co-owner of the Boudreaux Inn – the establishment in Jennings, described as a whorehouse by at least one source, at which some or all of the murdered prostitutes the book is about plied their trade.
Whether Boustany’s connection with the Boudreaux Inn goes further, as some of Brown’s sources allege, is unknown. The bit about Guillory seems to be the truth. Now, Boustany could deny that he knew about Guillory’s side business, and it’s plausible he didn’t know. One would think something like that might come up in the vetting of congressional staffers, though, and to the extent Boustany’s employment of Guillory has caused him some political trouble you really can’t feel too sorry for him. Brown’s defense is going to be that the accusation that Boustany had an illicit relationship with any of the prostitutes in question came from sources who first revealed it to a multiagency task force investigating the murders – in other words, the source for the allegations isn’t just Brown’s source but someone who also fed that information to law enforcement.
Which doesn’t make the accusation true, of course – and those who know Boustany generally scoff at the idea he’d be spending his time dallying with crack-whores in Jennings, Louisiana.
But it does likely insulate Brown and Simon & Schuster from being successfully sued.
As for the election, Boustany has now laid his cards on the table – his position is he didn’t do anything wrong, and when he learned Guillory had owned a whorehouse while working for him he terminated Guillory’s employment. If he’s innocent of everything other than careless vetting of his constituent outreach people, he’s done all the things one would expect of him.
Our suspicion here is that Boustany is generally innocent, but here’s the caveat: his sin was that when he first ran for Congress he made it a point to ally himself with all the local courthouse-mob pols in southwest Louisiana, and as the prospective first Republican to represent that district in Congress since Reconstruction he played up his family connections with the Edwin Edwards clan and the old-school insiders. And the price of the alliances he forged in Jeff Davis Parish, which is an abject sewer of crime and corruption and has been for a long time, was that he had to look the other way or at least not vigorously oppose some fairly awful things.
Meaning that he might very well have known that Guillory, or “Big G” as he’s known in those parts, ran a house of ill repute in Jennings, but Big G knew the “right folks” over there and could hook him up with support in the black community, and Big G had connections with some of the local pols who sometimes went slumming in his establishment. And Boustany may have figured it was a small matter compared to getting Jeff Davis Parish and its several thousand votes locked up for the next congressman in District 3.
And meanwhile there were bodies stacking up all around the Boudreaux Inn. But Guillory isn’t reputed to have anything to do with those murders, and neither is Boustany. It’s just a very inconvenient, bad bit of business that unfortunately is the price of making friends with the courthouse gang in those parts. After all, the sheriff in Jeff Davis at the time who managed to solve not a single one of those murders was Ricky Edwards; he now holds the position of Operations Support for the Louisiana Sheriffs Association. So it’s all very unfortunate but nothing is to be done.
The worry here for a Republican voter is that Boustany would make the runoff…against a Democrat. If he’s in the runoff with another Republican it’s not potentially catastrophic for this dead-prostitute business to be hanging around, but if he’s in the runoff against, say, Caroline Fayard the floodgates will open and there will be the same kind of all-out nonstop “Hookers!” carnival that John Bel Edwards unleashed on David Vitter. And frankly, that’s the only possible way this seat doesn’t stay in Republican hands.
But as of now, Boustany is doing what you’d expect an innocent man to do by filing that suit. You can’t expect much else.