Zurik: Holyfield reps demand takedown of Thomassie billboard - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

Zurik: Holyfield reps demand takedown of Thomassie billboard

A closeup of Thomassie's campaign billboard near Alario Center A closeup of Thomassie's campaign billboard near Alario Center
A file photo from our February encounter with Thomassie at the Double Deuce bar in Harvey A file photo from our February encounter with Thomassie at the Double Deuce bar in Harvey
WESTWEGO, LA (WVUE) -

Representatives for a former heavyweight boxing champion say a Jefferson Parish elected official illegally used his client's picture on a campaign billboard. They made him remove it.

It just so happens that this elected official has been the subject of several of our investigations. And in April, his house was raided by the state legislative auditor and Jefferson Parish deputies.

The billboard touted two five-time champions: boxer Evander Holyfield and JP's Second Justice Court constable, Tony Thomassie.

"I mean, it's a nice picture," says UNO political scientist Ed Chervenak when we show him a photo of the billboard.

Thomassie's the elected official we found drinking in a bar during the workday. Our investigation showed Thomassie also was selling deputy constable badges - those deputies showed up at a monthly meeting and paid him a fee.

When we asked Metropolitan Crime Commission head Rafael Goyeneche whether Thomassie could sell badges, he told us, "Can you? Yes, you can. Is it legal to do it? No."

And when our undercover camera caught Thomassie in a bar drinking, he claimed to be serving court papers at the same time. Thomassie is a long-time constable in Jefferson Parish; his job is to serve papers.

Thomassie is up for re-election this November. Campaign signs and at least one billboard have started to pop up on the West Bank.

The one that drew our interest was near the Alario Center in Westwego - a billboard that drew a comparison between heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield and Thomassie.

"The underlying message is that there is an endorsement, even though it's not explicit," Chervenak tells us. "The goal, I assume, is to associate Thomassie with a winner. You know, ‘Evander Holyfield, he's a world-class athlete, he's a winner - alright, we're in the same camp, I'm a winner as well.' So I think the message is much more implicit than explicit."

We went to a website that calls itself the official website of Holyfield, and emailed his representative about the billboard. Two hours after we sent the email, we got this response: "Thanks for sending this over to me. I spoke with Evander and he is/was completely unaware of this billboard. He has no affiliation whatsoever with the individual and nobody has any authority to use his image. I will send them over a letter shortly."

Thomassie had been using this billboard to pick up votes. But why didn't he get permission from Holyfield to use his image?

We asked Thomassie for comment and he told us the billboard has come down. He says he got a call from Holyfield's people, and they gave him 72 hours to remove it.

As for why it went up in the first place, Thomassie told us a friend of his said he was friends with Holyfield, and said the boxer would be ok with it. Thomassie drafted a letter for Holyfield to sign, he says, but his friend never got it signed.

Thomassie also says he sent Holyfield a letter of apology.

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