ASCENSION PARISH, La. (WAFB) - An online publication dropped diesel fuel Friday, Oct. 18 on the thus far relatively clean race for Ascension Parish president. Wade Petite, publisher of the Pelican Post, posted edited audio clips of runoff candidate, Murphy Painter, in which Painter seems to be discussing alleged cover-ups within the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, where he worked more than two decades ago.
Painter says Petite threatened months ago to “ruin” him and believes Friday’s audio release is timed to damage his candidacy. Painter says he believes the audio has been altered to make it sound like he said things he never said and to take his comments out of context.
Petite denies ever threatening Painter.
Petite, who is friends with Painter’s runoff opponent, Clint Cointment, said Friday he believes Cointment is the best candidate “hands down” and that he published the audio clips because he believes it’s in the best interest of voters to hear them.
He only published about 45 seconds worth of edited clips from a conversation Petite says lasted much longer and involved several other people. Petite says he has had a copy of the recording since it took place around 2017.
“If this was such a dynamic thing, I have to ask why Petite would have sat on it for several years?” Painter said Friday.
Petite has not published the full audio recordings that might give more context to what Painter was discussing and says he has not yet decided whether to release the full recordings to WAFB for review.
In the edited clips, Painter seems to be discussing a motorcyclist killed in a traffic accident involving former Ascension Parish Sheriff Harold Tridico in the early 90s, as well as case against a man accused of raping several children. Painter said Friday both of those cases happened years after he left the sheriff’s office. In the rape case, the prosecution of the accused man largely fell apart when the victims allegedly recanted their stories.
However, a woman posted on the Pelican Post Facebook page Friday saying she was a victim of the alleged rapes.
District Attorney Rick Babin says Petite provided him with the edited clips several months ago. Babin says he immediately forwarded the clips to Louisiana State Police, which later returned the case to him citing “insufficient” evidence to pursue. Babin says he plans to present the case to a grand jury and ask jurors to decide if they think there’s sufficient evidence to move forward with any type of investigation. Babin says he will subpoena the full audio recording from Petite to present to the grand jury.
Cointment declined to comment on the recordings. “I have made a pact not to comment on anything negative in this campaign,” he said. “I intend to keep my word with the citizens of this parish.”
In addition to the audio clip, Petite also posted this verbatim of Painter’s audio:
“When it come time for me to take over after I’d done been shot at, pissed on, beat up and everything else for 15 years, got Harold Tridico through five frickin’ elections; next week, whenever we find a friend of ours that raped five girls under the age of 12-years-old, and y’all want me to turn my head on that and look the other way. Or, or, or the sheriff leaves a bar and goes down the road and runs over some poor black guy on a frickin’ motorcycle and kills him and then tries to frame some woman for running him off the road. And they hide him out for eight hours ‘til he gets sober to take a frickin’ breath test when the law requires that you got to take a frickin’ uh, uh, you got to take a frickin’ blood test.”