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that Spears can no longer represent Jefferson and his sister, Betty.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
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
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.