The William Jefferson Chronicles

Mose Jefferson fights to keep lawyer
02:49 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- A former Louisiana congressman's brother charged in a racketeering conspiracy case fought Wednesday to keep his lawyer and preserve an Aug. 3 trial date.

Prosecutors claim attorney Arthur Lemann III has a conflict of interest that should prevent him from defending Mose Jefferson against charges he conspired with his girlfriend, former state Rep. Renee Gill Pratt, and two of his relatives to pocket grant money earmarked for charitable programs.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle didn't immediately rule but said he wasn't inclined to remove Lemann from the case. However, he gave prosecutors more time to present material supporting their argument.

"If I had to rule on this today, the ruling would not be to grant the disqualification," he said.

Lemann once represented Stacy Simms, who pleaded guilty last year to a charge related to an alleged bribery scheme in which Mose Jefferson also is charged separately from the racketeering case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Friel said Lemann would have divided loyalties if Simms is called as a witness for Jefferson's racketeering trial.

Lemann said prosecutors told him eight months ago that his representation of Jefferson wouldn't pose a problem.

"I've been trying to avoid conflicts, not creating them," he said. "What does she know about this case?"

Mose Jefferson is a brother of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson. His sister, Betty Jefferson, and niece, Angela Coleman, also are charged in the case and are asking for the Aug. 3 trial to be postponed. But Mose Jefferson and Gill Pratt want their cases severed and tried separately.

Friel said the government isn't opposed to delaying the trial. Lemelle instructed the lawyers to present their arguments in writing before he rules on whether to grant a postponement.

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