A private investigator working for Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, who is currently running for governor, was arrested and charged on Friday for criminal mischief, after he caught recording a conversation with a local sheriff.
Sheriff Newell Normand told the Orleans Advocate that the man, identified as Robert Frenzel, was acting “very strange and odd” when he was having a conversation with his friends at a coffee shop. Norman reportedly said Frenzel had a recording device that he was using to spy on behalf of Vitter’s campaign. The man denied taping the group.
Frenzel works for the J.W. Bearden and Associates, an investigative agency in Dallas and Vitter's campaign had paid the company more than $130,000 in legal fees this year, the Advocate reported.
During the confrontation, Frenzel fled the scene, which prompted police to launched a search for him. He was later found and taken into custody. The Advocate reported that he was charged and booked on one count of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. He was released Friday evening.
Louisiana’s state law allows a party in a conversation to record it without letting another party know. But Norman told the paper that a third-party who is not part of the conversation is prohibited from doing so.
In a statement to The Advocate, Vitter’s campaign acknowledged that Frenzel works for them and denied he was there record Normand. The campaign said he was there to focus on John Cummings, a renowned attorney in New Orleans who supports state Rep. John Bel Edwards, the front-runner Democratic candidate for governor.
“[He] works for a firm that we hired to do research, all within the bounds of the law,” the campaign said. “This includes John Bel Edwards’ business associate and major donor, and his relationship with the John Bel Edwards campaign. It has nothing to do with Newell Normand.”
The arrests comes a day before the state's primary vote, a move that could hurt Vitter’s chance to succeed Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is barred from a third term due to state-imposed term limits. Jindal is seeking the Republican Party's nomination for president.
Vitter is also running against Republicans Scott Angelle, a member of the state's utility regulatory board and and Lieutenant Gov. Jay Dardenne.