Extension cord run to vacant trailer
GONZALES — Gonzales City Councilman Timothy Vessel Sr. was convicted of misdemeanor attempted theft of utilities in Wednesday after a six-hour trial.
Ascension Parish Court Judge Marilyn Lambert fined Vessel $100 plus court costs. If he fails to pay the fine by Feb. 12, he will have to serve 30 days in jail.
Vessel was accused of plugging in an extension cord to a vacant trailer at Vesta Trailer Park on South Burnside Avenue to run an air compressor for the repair of his home that had been damaged during a fire.
Vessel testified he told the son of the trailer park manager, Theresa Nuncio, to plug the extension cord into the vacant trailer nearby and to be sure and tell his mother. Vessel said he was trying to provide electricity for roofers working at his house, but the roofers never used the electricity.
Initially, no charges were filed, but eventually Vessel was cited on Dec. 17 for misdemeanor theft of utility services, after the owner of the trailer park, Jesal Desai, of Metairie, pressed charges.
In his closing arguments, attorney André Gauthier said, “I really don’t know how we got to this stage in this case. There was something said, some misunderstanding. Somehow, this thing morphed and we used all this time ... and the state’s money.”
“Not one witness said my client used electricity, judge, come on,” he said to Lambert. “He thought he had permission. Is that a criminal act when you misconstrue?”
In his closing arguments, Assistant D A Lewis said, “A reasonable person knows you can’t get permission from someone who doesn’t own” the trailer park, “and a 16-year-old certainly couldn’t give permission” referring to the manager’s son.
Lewis said that Vessel made an offer to pay when officers came to the site of trailer, “It’s clear you can infer it (electricity) was used.”
Lambert dismissed as absurd defense claim of a conspiracy by the officers who investigated. Lambert noted that at the time of the incident, Vessel had just been elected to the council in the previous month but hadn’t been sworn in yet.
The judge did not find that prosecutors proved that electricity was used, but did prove the attempt.
“You may have never used it and I don’t think the state proved that you did. I do believe ... that was your intent,” Lambert said.