[dropcap]V[/dropcap]erone Auzenne Thomas, the artist formerly known as Bossarone Patron, is currently running to replace U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, the police officer formerly known as Cajun John Wayne, in Louisiana’s third congressional district.
At this point, Thomas, a Democrat, has almost no chance at winning- or even coming close- in a field that includes at least five other challengers. He hasn’t raised any money or filed a single campaign finance report, and if he intends on actually qualifying, his family “will cover the cost,” he says.
He also has a fairly lengthy criminal record, which includes felony arrests in both California and Texas, a fact that, until now, had not been previously reported.
Yesterday, Thomas agreed to an extensive and candid conversation about his criminal record, his professional career, and his decision to run for the U.S. Congress.
He may not have a pathway to victory, but Verone Thomas definitely has a story to tell.
To understand why his story is relevant, it’s important to first appreciate why the battle for Louisiana’s Third is already one of the strangest in the country.
[aesop_image img=”https://www.bayoubrief.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/577790_406176566060814_2125760259_n.jpg” panorama=”off” imgwidth=”90%” align=”center” lightbox=”on” caption=”A previous profile picture on candidate Verone Thomas’s Facebook page” captionposition=”center” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]
[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ouisiana’s third congressional district spans across the corridor between Lake Charles and Lafayette, the heart of Acadiana and a largely conservative region heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry.
To many, Higgins’s victory two years ago should be considered an aberration; the sheriff’s deputy-turned-viral video star, was swept into office on the coattails of Donald Trump’s insurgent campaign. Like Trump, Higgins, at least initially, seemed to be running a vanity campaign.
Though he had achieved online fame as the star of a series of viral Crime Stoppers videos, Higgins was nearly broke.
He’d been forced to resign from his job with the St. Landry Sheriff’s Department for a litany of reasons, including allegations that he had improperly used his public e-mail account to conduct private business. He’d owed more than $100,000 in child support and more than $40,000 in back taxes, a story initially broken by Zack Kopplin, a contributing editor to The Bayou Brief.
Yet voters forgave Higgins’s past indiscretions, and he defeated fellow Republican Scott Angelle by double-digits.
As a member of Congress, the once-bombastic Higgins had largely attempted to avoid the spotlight, until his bizarre and offensive decision to record a five-minute video inside of the gas chambers at Auschwitz sparked international condemnation and outrage.
[aesop_image img=”https://www.bayoubrief.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Screen-Shot-2018-07-16-at-12.11.01-AM.png” panorama=”off” imgwidth=”90%” align=”center” lightbox=”on” caption=”A still frame of U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins’s video from inside of the concentration camp Auschwitz. ” captionposition=”center” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]espite the fact that the third district is typically considered safely conservative, Higgins is the most vulnerable incumbent in Louisiana.
When his re-election came into sight, eight different challengers lined up to oppose him.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Conner, a first-time candidate, abandoned his bid for Congress as a result of what many characterize as “exorbitant fees” charged by his campaign and social media consultants.[/perfectpullquote]
Josh Guillory, a young lawyer from Lafayette (by way of Alexandria) and a Republican, was the first to declare his candidacy.
Phillip Conner, a physician from Lake Charles, was the first Democrat in the field. Although he had initially appeared to be the strongest Democratic candidate- a moderate with a brilliant understanding of a wide range of issues, including health care and United States foreign policy, Conner recently dropped out of the race.
(Verone Thomas claimed to The Bayou Brief that he was the very first person to declare his candidacy, but according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission, Thomas was actually one of the very last to declare.)
In addition to Conner, David Langlinais, an Independent candidate, also dropped out, as did Charles Metcalf, Jr. Notably, Rob Anderson had initially declared as an Independent but recently registered as a Democrat.
As the race stands today, Mimi Methvin, an accomplished lawyer from Lafayette (also by way of Alexandria), has raised more money and has more cash-on-hand than any other Democratic candidate in the race.
The dynamics of this race are still very much in flux, but by now, it should be clear who intends on running a serious campaign and who doesn’t.
[aesop_image img=”https://www.bayoubrief.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Screen-Shot-2018-07-16-at-12.57.47-AM.png” panorama=”off” align=”center” lightbox=”on” caption=”FEC fundraising and spending data for LA-03, as of June 30, 2018.” captionposition=”center” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]
To comb through the full reports, click here.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is a compelling and legitimate reason to scrutinize Verone Thomas’s potential bid for Congress, beginning with the fact that he is the only candidate still in the race who has not raised any money.
Indeed, in the aftermath of his only known fundraising event, a crawfish boil held several months ago, Thomas admits he actually lost money and is now saddled with $2,000 in campaign debt, a result, he says, of being duped by associates of one of his opponents.
But there is another and more important reason to question Thomas: He has a record, and it is troubling. Among other things, in 2011, Thomas was arrested for felony spousal abuse in Riverside, California, and six years prior in Texas, he was charged with a felony for evading arrest with his vehicle, the culmination of a car chase that involved multiple police officers and a helicopter tracking him from above.
It is not difficult to find the details of Verone Thomas’s past brushes with the law, which I had previously discovered in the course of research related to The Bayou Brief‘s coverage of the midterm elections.
Two days ago, after I was provided screencaptures from a private Facebook group in which Acadiana-area political activists, bloggers, and members of the local news media discussed the need to report the story, I asked Thomas for a comment.
He agreed to tell his story, in full and on the record.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”They try to paint me as this big, ruthless 6’5″ guy,” he told me, “but the truth is I am very humble. I’m a nice guy, and I get along with everybody.”[/perfectpullquote]
After speaking with him for more than an hour, I can attest that Verone Thomas does, in fact, come across as an affable guy, a natural conversationalist with a warm and self-deprecating sense of humor.
According to Thomas, the details of his criminal record, which include the dates of his probation and convictions of guilty, are incorrect. “I didn’t serve any time or do any probation for any of those (crimes),” he first asserted to me, via Facebook. “I have the paperwork to show how those charges were dropped.”
When we spoke on the phone, however, he revealed a much more complicated saga.
[aesop_image img=”https://www.bayoubrief.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Screen-Shot-2018-07-15-at-11.05.51-PM.png” panorama=”off” align=”center” lightbox=”on” caption=”The billionaire rap artist and entrepreneur Dr. Dre and Verone Thomas” captionposition=”center” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 1985, when he was 18 years old and fresh out of high school, Thomas enlisted in the Navy.
He spent his first three years stationed in Guam, primarily doing grunt work and helping to unload equipment and supplies shipped in from San Diego.
The Navy allowed him to travel throughout much of Asia, which he relished.
After a decade in the Navy, Operations Specialist Surface Warfare 2nd Class Petty Officer Thomas received a medical discharge in May of 1995. He’d been suffering from seizures, he said, which reoccurred on a fateful day in Texas ten years later.
On August 20th, 2005, Verone Thomas, who had been living in California since he left the Navy, was back at his family home in Lake Charles for a short stay. That day, he packed up his Chevy Avalanche pickup truck and headed down I-10 to visit friends nearby in Texas.
According to his version of the story, he had a seizure during the drive and did not realize that he had been side-swiped by another vehicle. He also didn’t see the flashing blue lights behind him; the rear windshield of his Avalanche was too small, he explained, and he was tunnel-visioned. He later learned that a helicopter had been dispatched. This was a serious police pursuit.
When a game warden finally managed to get in front of his car and force him to the side of the road, trace amounts of marijuana were found in the vehicle.
He spent two weeks behind bars in Texas awaiting a hearing, and ultimately, prosecutors decided not to charge him with simple possession. Thomas was released from jail, and he claims that all charges were dismissed against him once the judge heard evidence of his medical condition.
According to public documents, however, the disposition in that case was guilty.
[aesop_image img=”https://www.bayoubrief.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Screen-Shot-2018-07-16-at-4.27.07-AM.png” panorama=”off” align=”center” lightbox=”on” caption=”Jermaine Jackson, Verone Thomas, and Jackie Jackson” captionposition=”center” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]
[dropcap]V[/dropcap]erone Thomas put the arrest in Texas behind him and returned to California to his wife Deborah and their young daughter.
There, he worked in the music industry.
Most notably, Thomas was the sound engineer for The Jacksons and worked directly for Jackie, the oldest brother of the legendary Jackson Five.
He also became friends with several emerging artists associated with Death Row Records, and he decided to test out his own talent as a musician, rapping under the stage name Bossarone. (He subsequently added the surname Patron, he explained, because Facebook required him to pick a last name in order to create an online account).
As Bossarone Patron, he once recorded a demo track with Snoop Dogg and became a mentor to Darryl “Big D” Harper, who went on to produce Tupac Shakur’s final album Makaveli.
Thomas never landed a major hit or recorded a full-length studio album, but he did sign onto a now-defunct record label owned by the wife of a major hitter, the late Tony Gwynn, “Mr. Padre.”
When I asked him to refer me to his favorite song, Thomas directed me to this track:
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] would never put my hands on my wife, ever, ever, ever,” Thomas tells me.
He’s referring to another fateful day in his life, August 4th, 2011, when he was arrested for felony spousal abuse at his home in Sun City, California.
“This was a case of racial profiling,” he explains.
Thomas liked to play his music loudly, he readily admits, which was often disruptive to his neighbors. The cops had been called at least once to respond to a noise complaint. He never was cited with any violation, but on one occasion, after a police officer showed up and threatened to issue a $1,000 citation, Thomas demanded evidence of a decibel reading.
The officer, who Thomas described as a white man, was frustrated that he’d been outwitted and eventually left without issuing the citation.
A few weeks later, he and his wife got into an argument about finances. He had wanted to purchase a new dirt bike (ostensibly as a present for their young son), he claims, and she had hoped to spend the money on a couple’s trip to Las Vegas. They eventually reached an agreement: She would put up half of the money for the dirt bike as long as he paid for their Vegas trip.
The trip was a disaster.
Thomas didn’t disclose whether or not they gambled while in Las Vegas, but he did say they argued “all the way back from Vegas to California.” Incidentally, he’d been planning a trip back to Lake Charles the following day.
After they arrived home, his wife walked outside, and Thomas locked the door behind her. She began loudly banging on the door. He refused to let her back inside. The police were called.
And that same white officer showed up again.
This time, though, he wasn’t as patient. He cuffed Thomas, cited him with a felony, and carted him into county jail.
Thomas was bailed out by his wife, and the next day, as he had planned, he returned to Louisiana.
“It was one big misunderstanding,” Thomas tells me.
Regardless, though, because he was in Louisiana, Thomas missed his court date in California. He claims that the charges were ultimately thrown out, but the record suggests he was sentenced to three years of probation.
When I mention this to him, he tells me that he will be working on amending the legal record.
[aesop_image img=”https://www.bayoubrief.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/303264_259638850734762_2759643_n.jpg” panorama=”off” align=”center” lightbox=”on” caption=”Vernon Thomas’s conceptual rendering of a hyperloop transportation system, an idea he claims was stolen from him by Elon Musk.” captionposition=”center” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]
[dropcap]V[/dropcap]erone Thomas is running for Congress because he believes that America should begin extensively investing in hyperloop transportation infrastructure.
That is his primary issue. (The only other issue he mentions is the legalization of marijuana.)
“I believe Louisiana can benefit the most from (a hyperloop) because of our access to the Gulf,” he says.
In fact, he claims that the entire concept of a hyperloop system was essentially stolen from him after he approached Elon Musk and Richard Branson.
As evidence, he pointed me to the illustration (pictured above) that he uploaded onto his personal Facebook account in 2011.
His account also includes a few other illustrations:
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]wo years ago, in the primary election for the third district, a performance artist who went by the name Dorian Phibian captured more votes than the only serious Democratic challenger, Larry Rader.
Rader then endorsed Clay Higgins in the run-off campaign, a fact made all the more concerning considering Rader’s return appearance as a candidate this year.
This year, though, Rader has to contend with two other legitimate Democratic challengers, Mimi Methvin and Rob Anderson, and although Dorian Phibian isn’t on the ballot, this year, voters in Louisiana’s third congressional district may have the opportunity to cast their ballot for Bossarone Patron.
By the way, in case you were wondering, yes, he still owns the dirt bike.