ORLEANS PARISH SHERIFF'S OFFICE
Former Orleans Parish Public Schools Board member Jimmy Fahrenholtz says he has no memory of driving from Baton Rouge to New Orleans on April 22, the day an iPad was stolen from a Baton Rouge lobbyist. The tablet later turned up in a body of water in Fahrenholtz's backyard.
On advice of counsel, former Orleans Parish Public Schools Board member Jimmy Fahrenholtz says he can’t discuss details of the bizarre case that resulted in his recent felony arrest by State Police.
He says he can’t remember much about his April 22 visit to the state Capitol or returning to New Orleans with a iPad computer tablet and other items — all reported stolen that day by a lobbyist in Baton Rouge. Fahrenholtz also says he can’t recall much about the State Police search of his Bayou St. John home five days later on April 27.
He declined comment on published newspaper allegations that State Police detectives used a GPS tracking signal to recover the iPad from either his backyard swimming pool or pond.
Fahrenholtz, an attorney who has been suspended from the practice of law since 2009, said he agreed to an interview with Gambit
because he wanted the public to understand “why” he now faces criminal charges of theft and obstruction of justice.
“In the last 5 days or so, I have admitted to myself — finally — that I have a serious problem with alcohol and it has been ongoing and serious for decades,” Fahrenholtz, 65, said in an interview at his home with his wife, Pamela Butler. “I have serial episodes of very heavy drinking where I have absolutely no recollection of what I do. That is the case in this case.”
Fahrenholtz says he has been drinking since he was 11 years old. “I am what they call a ‘blackout drunk’ or ‘oblivion drunk,’” he says. “I can drink a phenomenal amount of alcohol.” He claims he can “still function at a very high level” while drunk but has no memory of what he does during his drinking bouts.
For example, he says, he has no memory of driving home from the state Capitol on the afternoon of April 22 — the day of the reported iPad theft — a distance of some 80 miles. “I can’t remember that I drove home,” he admitted, adding that it was frightening to think his drunk drivingcould have caused a fatal traffic accident.
He said his last drink was a glass of wine the night before an interview with Gambit
, adding, “Vodka is my poison of choice.” He says he takes no prescription drugs other than “blood pressure medication.”
Fahrenholtz told Gambit
he generally concealed his vodka in a water bottle. “People have no idea, literally, that I’m drunk,” he said. “Even though I can function at very high level, I have no idea that I’m doing it.”
He says his drinking has caused problems for his wife Pam, his friends and others, but he personally has never suffered the consequences of drinking until his arrest. “I never even got a hangover and I never get sick, regardless of how much I drink,” he says, adding, “I never paid a price for my drinking — until now.”
Fahrenholtz says he and his wife will make a decision by Monday (May 4) as to whether to seek inpatient or outpatient treatment for his alcohol abuse. “We have a number of friends that are in that field,” he said ofcounseling professionals.
Asked how he will resist the temptation to drink while attending the last weekend of Jazz Fest, Fahrenholtz said,“You’ve got to grow up.”
A State Police spokesman couldn’t be reached for comment, and a report on Fahrenholtz’s arrest was unavailable as of this writing.
Contrite about his drinking habits, Fahrenholtz continues to defy the Louisiana Ethics Commission and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Louisiana Supreme Court. He denounced the state ethics board as a “political organization” with a “personal” vendetta against him.
Kathleen Allen, executive director of the state ethics board, says Fahrenholtz owes the state treasury more than $28,000 for failing to file campaign finance reports during his eight years as a member of the School Board (2000-2008). “We’ve turned those records over to the State Attorney General’s office for collection,” Allen says.
Fahrenholtz also insists he’s “retired” from the practice of law. Charles Plattsmier, chief disciplinary counsel for the Louisiana Supreme Court, says Fahrenholtz still is a licensed attorney. His license has been suspended for almost six years.
In October 2009, the Supreme Court suspended Fahrenholtz for one year and one day, finding that he failed to cooperate with two separate bar investigations —including misconduct that allegedly took place while he was a School Board official. He’s been ineligible to practice law since Oct. 31, 2005, for failure to pay bar dues and a fee for the disciplinary investigation.
Fahrenholtz may apply for reinstatement of his lawlicense, pending review of his recent arrest and the outcome of the iPad theft case. “We are going to be following the events to see if he is guilty of any criminal misconduct,” Plattsmier told Gambit
Fahrenholtz says he spent “a day and a half” in an East Baton Rouge Parish jail after surrendering on the criminal charges. He remains free on bond and confident of the outcome and his future. “It’s going to be good,” he said.