Wildly improbable though it is, there is one compelling reason to believe the story that Robert Evans III tells.

It makes him look such a flake that he could have no conceivable reason to make it up. This is not going to increase demand for his services as a lawyer.

The tale Evans tells on himself unfolded not in the legal realm, but in the course of his excursion into politics as leader of a recall drive against Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni. But when Evans relates how he left his files in an empty convertible with the top down, potential litigants looking for counsel to share their confidences might decide to look elsewhere.

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Evans's story is a pack of lies, according to Yenni, and it does indeed tax credulity to the max. It goes like this. The files contained about 40,000 recall signatures, but Evans was doofus enough to leave them on the floor of his car while he popped into his office. When he returned they were gone and — wouldn't you just know it — it turned out that he had parked outside the range of the closed circuit TV cameras. It was thus impossible to prove that the thieves were the Yenni minions Evans had spotted tailing him in parish-owned cars over the last few weeks.

You and I might have been disinclined to abandon irreplaceable documents in plain view if we were being followed by enemies eager to snatch them, but Evans was evidently enjoying the “beautiful convertible weather” too much to worry about such mundane matters as security. For the further convenience of the thieves, the files were labeled 'Yenni Recall, vols 1 through 4." If anyone ever deserved to be robbed it was, if we take him at his word, Evans.

Yenni's henchmen allegedly pulled off the theft in March, but the cops were not alerted, and Evans came up with his story only last week, but there seems to be at least some truth in what he says.

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His political adviser Karen Carvin Shachat confirms that Evans told her files containing the signatures had gone missing at the time, although she does not recall precisely when that was. She also bears out Evans' claim that they considered reporting the theft but decided not to because they had no proof and nothing of any monetary value was missing.

By that time, moreover, all hope of gathering the 90,000 signatures required to force a recall election was gone. Even with the missing 40,000, the drive was 35,000 short with a deadline only a few weeks away, and it was widely known that the effort would fail.

That, of course, also meant that the Yenni camp had nothing to gain by removing the files from Evans's Camaro. But then neither did anybody else. The opportunity may have been too easy to pass up either for a Yenni spy or some nameless passer-by.

Left to his own devices, Evans would evidently never have gone public with his story, He said nothing at the time because, he says, he feared that people would laugh at him and wonder, “What kind of custodian is he?” He got that right. He says he spent $120,000 of his own money on the recall effort, yet took no care to secure its fruits and was reduced to tears. Sidesplitting stuff.

Evans did not volunteer his story until, all these months later, a reporter wanted to examine the recall signatures, which are public record. When Evans' allegations thus came to light, Yenni piled on the mockery in response, He called this the “craziest” story he'd ever heard.

Although it seems likely that the files did show up missing, that hardly means that Yenni was responsible or that he put a tail on Evans. Yenni says it didn't happen and Evans says it did, and there is no way to tell who speaks true.

Practically every official in Jefferson Parish believes Yenni is unfit to remain as president after he admitted sexually propositioning a 17-year-old boy, and he has been banned from the public schools. But the law requires one-third of registered voters to sign up before a recall election can be called, which is a practical impossibility. If Yenni cannot be forced out of office, who can?

Email James Gill at Gill1407@bellsouth.net.

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