Hunting ‘gators isn’t an activity for everyone, but that’s exactly what makes “Swamp People” entertaining to watch. By featuring several hunters in Louisiana and other swamp states of the US, the audience has got to see first hand what this dangerous tradition is about, and how it stays alive after several centuries.
That being said, while seeing people catching ‘gators on TV is riveting and adrenaline-inducing, the life off-camera of many stars of the show is so dramatic and trouble-filled, that it really rivals all the hunting drama we see on screen.
So what are the legal troubles that the stars of “Swamp People” have been through? Keep with us to know all the legal drama and scandals that TV’s favorite ‘gator hunters haven’t told us about!
Joe LaFont’s Cases
Although it’s not unheard of for TV stars to break the law once in a while, in Joe LaFont’s case he might have taken that philosophy a little too far.
Joe, whose real name is Noces Joseph LaFont Jr., is remembered for appearing in “Swamp People” from its first to third season, and making a short-lived comeback in the sixth season before leaving for good. However, those times he wasn’t in the TV spotlight, he was more preoccupied in the past decade involving himself in several legal issues. The first incident happened in 2012, when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend and inflicting burns with a cigarette on her arms, on their way out of a hotel in Florida. While his girlfriend didn’t press charges, witnesses declared seeing LaFont violently shake her while intoxicated. A year later, he was arrested again for domestic abuse.
The year 2015 saw Joe “The Trapper” renovating his arrest mugshot, as in May that year he was arrested in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, for breaking his girlfriend’s ribs during a disagreement at home. LaFont was ordered to stay away from the victim, but it’s unclear if the women involved in these incidents are the same person.
The Assault Accusations
Unfortunately, Joe LaFont isn’t the only “Swamp People” star involved in a case of assault. Fellow cast members Roland J Molinere, Jr. and 25 years old son Jay Paul were arrested for assaulting a man in 2016.
According to media reports, the Molineres and the alleged victim of unknown identity were involved in a verbal fight on a highway. However, the situation took an ugly turn when the man was apparently followed by the Molinieres to a local shop, where they attacked him: ‘He said that he was beat up by the two and struck in the head with a beer bottle by Molinere Jr’, as the local Sheriff Jerry Larpenter declared at the time.
Some of the most remarkable injuries sustained by the victim were a bruise on the forehead and a swollen jaw. The man reported the incident to the Sheriff’s office five days after it occurred and as soon as the warrant was issued, the Molineres turned themselves in.
While the Molineres’ attorneys declared there was ‘evidence to support the charge of aggravated assault and simple battery committed upon our clients’, it’s unfortunately unknown how the case ended in. However, the father and son’s appearances in “Swamp People” continued as normal, until their exit in the 10th season.
Nick Payne’s Crimes
Although recent viewers of “Swamp People” might not find Nick Payne’s name familiar, those who watched the show from the start know him well. Nicholas Payne certainly appeared in the first season, but his career as a reality TV star was cut short for his repeated breaches of the law.
The first known encounter of Payne with the law occurred in 2004, when he was sentenced to five days of social service after pleading guilty to simple battery. Six years later, he was sentenced to one year of probation for resisting an officer, and another charge of battery, but that wasn’t enough for Payne.
According to police reports, in 2011 an officer was called to Payne’s home in Louisiana after a neighbor reported a loud argument. Payne and his wife declared that nothing serious was occurring at the place, and assured the officer they were going inside the house, but a couple of hours later more noise was reported from the residence. Before the officer could give Payne a summons, he was hit in the chest, and Payne ran away, but not getting far before he was arrested and charged with simple battery, disturbing the peace, and resisting an officer. Just a couple of months before that incident, Payne had been arrested for possession of drugs.
Unfortunately, it’s unknown what happened to Payne afterwards, but it’s for sure that his path in the show was more than over at that point.
Back in the fifth season of “Swamp People”, Roger Rivers surprised the audience by stating he had an ‘addiction to hunting big ‘gators’ and that his accomplishments in doing so were quite impressive.
However, the confident Rivers was arrested in 2017 on several criminal wildlife violation charges, such as illegally selling alligator and deer meat, selling a protected species of alligator, hunting and catching amphibians without a proper license, not tagging alligators, and some other fishery-related crimes, amounting to 18 charges.
In the list of his crimes, it was also noted that he illegally possessed marijuana at the time of his arrest. Rivers was arrested along with his workers, who were also investigated by Louisiana’s Wildlife and Fisheries Department for the aforementioned violations. Although it’s unknown what the consequences of these crimes were, the website KSLA reported that Rivers’ bond was set at $10,030, and he paid it on the same day of his detention.
The Fraud Charges
Just as with some other former “Swamp People” co-stars, Roger Rivers couldn’t stay out of trouble for long.
In September 2022, Rivers was arrested once again, but this time accused of fraud. According to online reports, Rivers allegedly received $6,000 for performing an unknown job, but failed to comply with the contractor. Some comments online point out that the charges against Rivers were dropped soon afterwards, but while there’s no confirmation about that, Rivers’ social media posts let us see that he’s not detained anymore, and enjoys quality time with his family in Zwolle, Louisiana.
Whether Rivers’ last arrest was a misunderstanding or not, there’s nothing else for us other than wishing he stays out of trouble in the future.
Fake Payment Lawsuit
It’s evident that many “Swamp People” cast members can’t stay away from legal troubles, but while most of them are arrested for allegedly breaking the law, others are actually trying to attain justice.
That’s the case of Elizabeth Choate and Kristi Broussard, both experienced ‘gator hunters whose appearances in “Swamp People” have extended to several seasons. Their wide fame through the show landed them some side gigs, such as public appearances and fan meetings, one of which left a bittersweet taste in their mouths.
Back in 2012, Choate and Broussard were contracted by Karen Fuson, Debra and Judy Turner from Texas, to be guest celebrities in a private event to promote a business named Texas Custom Truck Accessories. Apparently, they also asked Choate’s to bring her merchandise brand Gator Queen Choate to the event, to provide guests with free products.
Nothing seemed out of place, until Choate’s $3,500 and Broussard’s $2,200 checks bounced, added to the $56,000 merchandise check being put at stop by the bank. Logically, both ‘gator hunters sued the Texas women for failing to comply with their payments, though the case supposedly was settled out of court, as no further mention about it can be found.
The Boat Incident
Chase Landry is without doubt one of the most popular “Swamp People” cast members, appearing in it from the third season onwards. Nonetheless, not even Chase and his very popular family are safe from running into some law-related trouble.
As it happens, in September 2016, Chase was for allegedly firing at a shrimp boat in Louisiana, while hunting. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident, but authorities caught Chase as he was driving away from the place. According to his statements, Chase fired his gun in self-defense, as he apparently thought the boat intended to run over him.
Later in December 2017, the situation worsened when Chase failed to attend the trial for the same incident, and sent his attorney in his place, who according to TMZ affirmed that Chase was busy hunting at the time. Due to Chase’s lack of presence at court, a jury issued a warrant for him, but the fact that Chase continued to appear in “Swamp People” after his trial suggests that the case most-likely didn’t have negative consequences for him.
Here yall go pic.twitter.com/oSOthqZej2
— Chase Landry (@ChaseLandrySWMP) June 3, 2013
Troy Landry’s Problems
Chase isn’t the only Landry who has got into some serious issues with the law. In 2012, the family’s patriarch Troy Landry was cited by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, as authorities had previously found out he had been importing animals which represented potential risks to other states.
As it happened, in November that year, Troy and sons Jacob and Chance were stopped by Arkansas’ authorities as they drove back from Nebraska, from where they’d brought several deer heads and meat products from their hunting season in the mountains. However, while the Landrys assumed their season had been successful, they didn’t know their deer carcasses were prohibited in Arkansas, due to the proliferation of chronic waste disease, which according to Arkansas Online, is ‘an incurable and highly contagious neurological disease that affects cervids such as deer and elk’.
Given the dangers associated of the materials, authorities confiscated the Landrys’ charge, and only let them keep a cooler containing ‘deboned meat’, also promising to give the deer heads back to the Landrys after sanitization. That being said, Troy and his sons stated their lack of knowledge about said regulation, openly disagreeing with the actions taken by authorities: ‘I could understand it if we stopped in Arkansas in the night and processed a deer or something, but we were doing 75 miles per hour coming home’, he stated.
The Trademark Lawsuit
Anyone who has ever watched “Swamp People” knows how memorable Troy Landry’s presence is in the show. Since his debut in the show’s first season, he’s amassed huge fame for his hunting skills, fearless attitude, and some iconic phrases which never left the audience’s minds.
However, in 2012 Troy paid a high price for his creativity, when he sued several companies which he claimed were illegally using his trademark phrases for economic gain. The businesses included in the lawsuit were National Cap and Sportswear, Halpern Import and Ripple Junction Design, all clothing and merchandise brands allegedly using Troy’s “Tree Breaka”, “Choot Em” and some other sayings on their products.
According to Troy’s court statements, the aforementioned phrases were created by him and trademark-protected, thus their usage without license was prohibited. The only authorized brand allowed to make a business out of these was his company, Troy Landry Productions, which produced a whole brand of merchandise with his and the Landry’s family trademarks.
Unfortunately, it’s unknown how the case was resolved, but due to the severity of the accusations, the parties most-likely came to an out of court settlement.
Although “Swamp People” cast members usually find themselves in legal trouble in some way or another, the show itself is subject to lots of criticism from environmental activists and animal protection organizations.
Ever since the show’s premiere in 2010, loud complaints have been directed at its cast members and the network. Back in the day, actor Dominic Monaghan from the series “Lost” expressed his concern regarding the contents of the show, declaring it contributed to the ‘demonization of crocodilians’ and was meant to shock and not educate: ‘If alligator populations need to be controlled I understand, but the act should not be glorified on TV. Disgusting. These are living creatures’, he wrote on Twitter.
Although Monaghan’s promise of ‘stopping’ the show never came to pass, several online campaigns raised in protest against “Swamp People”, have alleged animal cruelty and other environmental issues as some of the biggest issues of the show.
Regardless of those complaints, the truth is that “Swamp People” doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, releasing successful season after season for over a decade now. However, while environmental concerns might not put an ending point to the show, could the continuity of the hunters’ legal issues affect the future of “Swamp People”, on TV or as a business? That’s something only time will tell.