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Candidacy Ends Amid Restroom Scandal

Candidacy Ends Amid Restroom Scandal

A Louisiana city official abandoned his race for state senate as a newspaper prepared to report that he had twice been detained on suspicion of lewd conduct in mall restrooms, New Orleans's WDSU-TV reported.

Joey DiFatta of Chalmette, chairman of the St. Bernard Parish Council, cited "health concerns and stress" in ending his campaign Thursday for Louisiana's first district senate seat.

The Times-Picayune reported late Thursday that DiFatta, a Republican, had been stopped twice since 1996, the year he first won public office, on suspicion of lewd behavior in Jefferson Parish restrooms.

He was not arrested in either case, the paper said. In the 1996 case, a man who initially accused DiFatta of watching him through a bathroom peephole withdrew his complaint. In the second, in March 2000, an undercover deputy conducting a sting operation ceased his surveillance when several children entered the room.

In both cases, police reports state, DiFatta, when asked to show identification, produced a badge showing him to be a St. Bernard sheriff's captain.

DiFatta, 53, told the Times-Picayune the reports are true but denied any wrongdoing. He said he had no arrest record and that the controversy was unrelated to his stepping down. He told the paper that he had been having "chest pains" and "elevated enzyme levels" indicative of heart problems and that his doctor advised him "to make some changes" in his life.

He acknowledged brandishing his law-enforcement ID but said it was just part of the identification he carries in his wallet.

The paper called him "a strong voice for his constituents, traveling often to Washington, D.C., to fight for recovery help" after Hurricane Katrina.

DiFatta gave up his chance for reelection to the St. Bernard council when he entered the senate race, WDSU reported. (Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate)

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