The William Jefferson Chronicles

Judge rules that lawyer Ike Spears can no longer represent Mose and Betty Jefferson
by Gordon Russell, The Times-Picayune
Tuesday September 16, 2008, 10:32 PM
Chris Granger / The Times-Picayune

Mose Jefferson walks into the federal courthouse last fall with his attorney Ike Spears. A judge ruled Tuesday that Spears can no longer represent Jefferson and his sister, Betty.

Attorney Ike Spears has a conflict of interest and therefore cannot represent political strategist Mose Jefferson and his sister, 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson, in their upcoming trial on charges that they looted a group of publicly financed charities, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle ruled Tuesday.

Prosecutors from U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office had sought Spears' removal, saying he has represented numerous members of the Jefferson family as the clan -- whose most prominent member is U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, brother to Mose and Betty -- became ensnared in a series of corruption investigations.

Spears did not oppose the government's motion, according to Lemelle's ruling, leading the judge to believe that it "has merit."

Spears could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

A hearing is scheduled for today at 2 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Louis Moore to determine who will represent the two Jeffersons. Their co-defendant in the case, Angela Coleman, who is Betty Jefferson's daughter, has her own attorney and is unaffected by Tuesday's ruling.

Prosecutors wanted Spears removed from the case because he has offered legal advice to several members of the Jefferson family who they said are likely to be called as witnesses in the upcoming trial.

Most important, they said, he represented Brenda Foster, the youngest of 10 siblings in the family. As part of a plea deal, Foster already has pleaded guilty to a crime in the charity case and agreed to "take the stand and expressly detail not only her own involvement in the scheme outlined in the pending indictment, but also the criminality of the entire conspiracy, " according to the prosecution's motion.

The indictment charges that the three defendants -- Coleman and the two Jeffersons -- bilked the nonprofit groups of at least $627,000. The charities were set up and controlled by family members, including Foster, who at times was executive director.

Given those facts, Mose and Betty Jefferson's attorneys certainly will want to subject Foster to a vigorous cross-examination, prosecutors said. But Spears will be unable to do so because "his loyalty is divided, " the motion said.

Lemelle's ruling said a trial date in the charity case will be set today.

Mose Jefferson, who works as a political strategist, is already set to be tried in federal court Oct. 20 in a separate case. A grand jury charged him with bribing Ellenese Brooks-Simms, the former president of the Orleans Parish School Board, in exchange for her support for an algebra curriculum he was peddling.

William Jefferson has a December trial date in federal court in Virginia on 16 bribery-related charges. He is seeking re-election to his 10th term in the 2nd Congressional District.

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