Feb 22, 2012 8:03 PM by Melissa Hawkes
A fight lands Lafayette Developer Glenn Stewart in jail. He's facing felony charges of second degree battery, after officials say he punched a woman in the face. The victim, Erin Fitzgerald, was knocked unconscious before the Independent Parade rolled yesterday afternoon.
Stewart was arrested seven hours after the fight. Stewart owned the float that started the feud. It featured a mug shot of Fitzgerald's stepmother Cherry Fisher May. She's one of the Independent Weekly publishers.
The float had a banner featuring May's DUI mug shot. Police said Fitzgerald tried to remove the banner. Last summer, Stewart plastered May's picture on four Lafayette billboards after the weekly paper published a series of reports. The stories shed light on Stewart's agricultural property tax exemption that allowed him to pay less property taxes on one of his developments- Parc Lafayette. He could claim the exemption as long as he cultivated one bail of hay.
The fight yesterday started between Stewart and John St Julien, who is Fitzgerald's stepfather. It then escalated to involve Fitzgerald. At first only a misdemeanor summons for disturbing the peace was issued, but last night those charges were upgraded to second-degree battery.
Corporal Paul Mouton with the Lafayette Police Department said, investigators are still trying to figure out whether Stewart intentionally hit Fitzgerald or she accidentally got in the way.
He said, "from what we can understand, she was visibility in front of Stewart at the time the punch was thrown, and she was thrown to the ground."
The reason why Stewart wasn't arrested as soon as the incident happened is because no officers actually witnessed the fight. Officers had to wait until the Mardi Gras chaos died down to find out exactly what happened.
Mouton said, "when our officers go to the hospital and interviewed her is when they actually discovered she had been knocked unconscious and more information came to light."
Investigators talked to witnesses and John St. Julien, who is Fitzgeralds stepfather and was also involved in the fight. St. Julien was working for the Independent the day of the parade. He was asked to take pictures because the Independent's photographer was running late.
Some of the pictures he took shows Stewart jumping over the float as Fitzgerald is walking away and another is of Fitzgerald passed out. All this evidence led to the increased charges.
"The decision was made not to intervene during the parade and create a bigger problem than we have, but to wait obtain the warrant and pick up Stewart at his residence," Mouton said.
St. Julien and Fitzgerald were both summoned to court. St. Julien for disturbing the peace by fighting and Fitzgerald for disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct. Officials don't expect any more charges to follow in this case.
Independent Parade organizers said they weren't aware of the float's content, but Glenn Stewart paid for the float and met all of the rule and regulations. The committee and members of the Greater Southwest Mardi Gras Association will have their annual post-parade meeting and Chairman Mike Mitchell said"after all these years we've never run into a personal attack on someone. We can't let this ever happen again. this can't be in our parade."
He said they'll re-examine their signage rules.