METAIRIE, La. — The two leading candidates in the hotly-contested race for Jefferson Parish sheriff are ratcheting up the campaign rhetoric in dueling press releases.

Former JPSO spokesman John Fortunato is demanding incumbent Sheriff Joe Lopinto apologize to the people of JP for "falsely stating that Fortunato tried to secure Lopinto's backing for Chief of the Causeway Police Department."

Fortunato's full statement demanding an apology from Sheriff Joe Lopinto
Fortunato's full statement demanding an apology from Sheriff Joe Lopinto
John Fortunato

"Lopinto is intentionally misleading the public, Fortunato stated. "He is desperately trying to distract the people of Jefferson Parish from the truth."

Last week, Lopinto accused Fortunato of having two representatives approach him by phone with an offer to stay out of the sheriff's race, if Lopinto backed him for the Causeway job.

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Lopinto admitted that he reported the phone calls to both the Louisiana Attorney General's Office and the FBI.

In a statement, Lopinto refused to apologize for “reporting potential crimes in progress.”

"Johnny Fortunato apparently spent all his time reading prepared statements when he was employed by the Sheriff's Office," Lopinto stated. "He must have somehow missed hearing that lying to the FBI is a crime."

Fortunato added that Lopinto is trying to hide the fact that since he became sheriff 15 months ago, violent crime has increased on both the east and west banks of the parish with murder being up by 100 percent year over year.

Lopinto offered his own statistics that show since 2017, violent crime is down in JP by about 24 percent.

RELATED: Are JP crime numbers up? Sheriff candidate Fortunato cites rise in violent crime

Also on Wednesday, Fortunato's wife Kriss announced she is taking a leave of absence from her job as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the city of Kenner.