This might seem like an incredibly bizarre decision, but it makes more sense than it might initially appear despite the rather comical concept of Newell Normand attempting to stay within FCC guidelines for two hours on WWL radio every day…
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand announced Tuesday he will retire as sheriff as of Aug. 31.
He is leaving to take the radio mic from former WWL Radio host Garland Robinette, who announced his retirement from the station earlier this month.
Normand was the hand-picked successor to the late sheriff Harry Lee, whom voters overwhelming elected and reelected since he took office 10 years ago.
He will be replaced, at least on an interim basis, by former state Rep. Joe Lopinto, who raised eyebrows when he resigned his house seat mid-term to take a job as Normand’s legal counsel. He was later named chief criminal deputy.
Certainly it won’t be boring to have Normand on the radio every day, though there’s the distinct possibility of Normand’s radio gig devolving into something of an Ace Rothstein spectacle (if you don’t remember the Aces High TV show scene from the movie Casino, we can’t help you with that reference) for a time.
Why is that? Well, there was this…
Craig Taffaro, the recently retired chief deputy to Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, was charged in federal court Thursday with tax evasion and filing a false tax return.
The charges against the veteran lawman were returned by a grand jury, usually a sign that a defendant intends to fight the case, and Taffaro’s attorney, Mike Magner, confirmed in a strongly worded statement that he will.
The indictment accuses Taffaro of improperly ducking some of his tax liability in a single tax year — 2009 — but does not say how much the government believes he avoided paying. The indictment says only that he gave a tax preparer “false and incomplete information,” including “exaggerated” business expenses.
Sources with knowledge of the case said the amount Taffaro is accused of failing to pay is less than $5,000, and that the expenses were associated with a business Taffaro and Normand formed together shortly after Normand was elected sheriff in 2007.
The two men each own a 50 percent share in the business, CTNN Enterprise LLC. Its name is an amalgamation of their initials.
The scuttlebutt in Jefferson Parish political circles has it that the feds are pushing Taffaro to roll over on Normand, who has publicly said he hasn’t been interviewed by the FBI and isn’t a target of the investigation. Should Taffaro decide to make a deal, then Normand will have his own legal issue to deal with – so the word goes.
And that would mean WWL will have bought the ultimate pig in a poke hiring Normand. He’ll be on their air hammering away at the feds for their unjust prosecution, and surely the advertisers will be enthralled, right?
In the meantime, LoPinto, the former state representative, will take over for Normand as sheriff and assumedly will be running to keep the job on a more permanent basis. How’s that going to play politically? Well, like Newell Normand LoPinto backed John Bel Edwards in 2015 – which is an iffy political proposition going forward; Edwards did shockingly beat David Vitter 51-49 in Jefferson Parish in that election, but one year later John Kennedy carried Jefferson with 64 percent of the vote in the Senate runoff, which could be an indication of resurgent Republican strength there. If Edwards’ approval rating isn’t so high in Jefferson by 2019, LoPinto might find a bit of a headwind for having backed the governor.
And the other problem is LoPinto is Sen. Danny Martiny’s law partner. Martiny is, among other things, the lawyer for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s department. So if the sheriff and his top deputy are both in federal court with criminal indictments, how’s that going to play?
We’re also told that the likely outcome of all of these federal investigations is for both Taffaro and Normand to ultimately turn state’s evidence on Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson, whose practices in his job have been described in lots of unsavory terms by our sources. If that’s the case, maybe Normand can do his share of tattling on the radio before he does it to the grand jury.
That, for certain, will be worth listening to.