Gill Pratt, Mose Jefferson push to keep August trial date
by Laura Maggi, The Times-Picayune
Thursday June 18, 2009, 8:40 AM
Attorneys for Mose Jefferson and former City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt told a federal judge Wednesday that they want to push forward with an August trial date, despite a recent indictment that added a complex racketeering charge to a case accusing members of the Jefferson political family of stealing money from nonprofit groups.
Jefferson, the brother of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson; 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson; and her daughter, Angela Coleman, were first indicted last year in the alleged scheme to skim money from nonprofit groups in Central City. Gill Pratt was added as a defendant in the case in late May, when a federal grand jury handed up a new indictment that alleged she was part of a "criminal enterprise" that obtained government grants for nonprofits then spent the money on the Jefferson clan.
Although the Aug. 3 trial date set before the new indictment is less than two months away, Gill Pratt's attorney said she wants to proceed as quickly as possible. Arthur "Buddy" Lemann III, who represents Mose Jefferson, said his client also wants to go to trial on the previously set date.
But attorneys for the other two defendants, Betty Jefferson and Angela Coleman, said they will not be able to prepare for trial that quickly, asking U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle during Wednesday's hearing to move back their trial dates.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Friel said he wouldn't oppose the request for a delay, but noted that in a racketeering charge it is difficult to separate the defendants for the purpose of holding separate trials.
Both Mose Jefferson and Gill Pratt have asked for a trial separate from that involving the other defendants.
In a motion filed this week, Gill Pratt's attorney Michael Fawer said forcing his client to go to trial with Betty Jefferson and Coleman would be unfair, as they are accused of far more than Gill Pratt, a former state legislator and city councilwoman who obtained the grant money that federal prosecutors assert was misused.
Gill Pratt is prepared to defend herself at trial with Mose Jefferson, her longtime boyfriend, as the indictment alleges specific exchanges of ill-gotten money between them, Fawer wrote.
Fawer said that Gill Pratt has financial considerations that prompt her to want to move forward quickly, as she took a leave of absence from her job at the Southern University at New Orleans after the indictment.
In a separate issue, Lemelle indicated he was leaning against granting a federal government motion to force Lemann to resign as Mose Jefferson's attorney. Federal prosecutors said he should step aside because he previously represented Stacy Simms, who pleaded guilty last year to participation in an alleged bribery scheme that, in a separate federal case, led to charges against Mose Jefferson.
Aspects of that alleged bribery scheme were added to the racketeering case in the new indictment, prompting prosecutors to assert that Lemann would have divided loyalties if Simms is called as a witness in the bribery case.
Lemelle, who gave prosecutors more time to file material supporting their argument, said he wasn't convinced Lemann would need to drop out of the case.
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This story includes material from the Associated PressLaura Maggi can be reached at email@example.com or at 504.826.3316.