- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

Do you recall a dangerous incident last summer when professional bass tournament angler Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas, was fired upon by an irate property owner in the Louisiana Delta, south of New Orleans? Later, claims were made about excessively speeding bass boats that might have raised the hackles of some locals.

It happened during the 2003 world championship BASS Masters Classic, the most prestigious bass tournament in the land. The Classic is the annual crowning event conducted by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society of Montgomery, Ala., that can result in a fortune for the winner.

What happened was that Klein, one of the most likable anglers on the pro tour, had picked a shoreline spot in the Delta to fish for bass when a man charged toward him and, from a distance, fired a shotgun load at Klein and at an adjacent camera boat. No one was injured and everybody beat a hasty retreat, but after finding out who did the shooting, Klein launched a legal complaint.

Nothing was done about it. In fact, charges flew about that, in this part of Louisiana, outsiders aren’t welcome and if anything should happen to you, well, it was your own fault. It was not the fault of the good ol’ boy network of Plaquemines Parish, where the assault took place.

In a statement to the New Orleans Times-Picayune and BassFan.com, Plaquemines Parish District Attorney Darryl Bubrig said, “After 37 years of making decisions on prosecuting thousands of felonies and misdemeanors, I have been second-guessed by people many times who have never known the full extent of the information that was available or unavailable to prove a case ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ This second-guessing is understandable and excusable by people who have a limited knowledge of the law and the facts.

“However, [a Times-Picayune editorial implied that] the legal decision not to prosecute is a message that vigilante justice is given a green light in Plaquemines Parish is totally wrong because good reporting and journalism require that the information upon which such comments are made be verified.”

The D.A. obviously didn’t believe any laws were broken. In fact, he suggested that to prosecute the shooter just to make a point, perhaps even encouraging the BASS organization to return to Louisiana, would be “both legally and morally wrong.”

“There should be a prosecution only where the law and evidence justify prosecution, not to set examples or promote tourism,” Bubrig said.

Meanwhile, the victim, Klein, told BassFan.com, “All my communication has been with the arresting officer, Mike LeBoeuf. I’ve had no other communication regarding the case.”

Klein said no one from the prosecutor’s office called him and added, “I don’t know the details of why it’s being dropped, but my response in talking [to LeBoeuf] has been that I’ve always been more than willing to cooperate with whatever needed to be done.”

By the way, during the same bass tournament, another contender, Harold Allen of Texas, who finished third, was chased off the water by a man in an airboat. Later, Klein also was harassed by an airboat. It should be obvious that either strangers aren’t welcome in that part of Louisiana or the residents simply dislike competitive bass fishing.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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