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GOP Sen. David Vitter: Sheriff Arrested My P.I. To Try To Embarrass Me

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AP Photo / Bill Clark

Sheriff Newell Normand arrested the private investigator, Robert J. Frenzel, after he fled a coffee shop where he allegedly recorded the sheriff's breakfast meeting. Normand told local media that he believed Frenzel spied on him because he endorsed Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R), one of Vitter's rivals in the gubernatorial race. Frenzel was reportedly employed by J.W. Bearden and Associated, an investigative agency in Dallas that billed Vitter's campaign for more than $130,000 in legal fees in 2015.

Vitter himself addressed the incident for the first time in an interview with Gannett Louisiana published Monday. The senator said he didn't personally order Frenzel to spy on Normand, whom he accused of playing up the incident to embarrass him on the eve of Louisiana's primary, according to the report.

"Sadly, he's been on a campaign against me for a long time," Vitter said of Normand, as quoted by Gannett Louisiana. "I've reached out to him numerous times about legislation affecting law enforcement and other issues (to no avail). Obviously, (the sheriff's) motives in the arrest were political. It was a bizarre and silly incident."

Vitter's campaign previously confirmed that Frenzel was an associate and asserted his activities on behalf of the campaign were legal.

"This person (Frenzel) works for a firm that we hired to do research, all within the bounds of the law," the campaign said in a statement to NOLA.com. "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."

Vitter bested his two GOP rivals to earn 23 percent of the vote in Saturday's jungle primary. He faces Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, who took 40 percent of the primary vote, in the Nov. 21 runoff.