The William Jefferson Chronicles

Mose Jefferson loses bid for indigent status in federal cases
by Laura Maggi, The Times-Picayune
Thursday August 06, 2009, 5:37 PM

A federal magistrate judge today refused to declare Mose Jefferson too broke to pay his legal bills, saying Jefferson could sell a house currently being used as collateral for a bond that has allowed him to stay out of jail.

Attorneys for Mose Jefferson asked Judge Louis Moore Jr. to find Jefferson indigent, saying that the federal government had tied up his assets with notices of possible forfeiture that could be executed if Jefferson is found guilty, in two separate cases, on charges of bribery and racketeering.

Defense attorneys Mike Fawer and Arthur "Buddy" Lemann III, as a means of obtaining payment for their services, had wanted to obtain a loan against an apartment building on Loyola Avenue owned by Jefferson. But in December, the U.S. Attorney's Office put a hold on the property, essentially making it ineligible for such use.

But Moore said during today's hearing that he didn't believe Jefferson qualified as indigent under the law, noting that he owns a house in eastern New Orleans worth more than $200,000.

That house is currently being used as collateral, allowing Jefferson to remain free on bond pending trial.

Moore pointed out that Jefferson could give up the bond on the house and go to jail, allowing the property to be sold to pay legal bills.

"It is rather brutal if you ask me," Lemann said after the court hearing.

The attorney said he and Fawer plan to take the issue up with U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon, possibly as soon as Friday.

Jefferson is scheduled to face trial Monday on charges he bribed a former Orleans Parish School Board president in exchange for her support for an algebra curriculum he was selling.

Fawer, his attorney in that case, has indicated he will file a motion for a delay, probably citing pre-trial publicity associated with this week's conviction of Mose Jefferson's younger brother, former Congressman William Jefferson, on federal corruption charges.

Lemann is Mose Jefferson's attorney in a racketeering case in which he and others, including his sister, Tax Assessor Betty Jefferson, are accused of pilfering money from a nonprofit created to help the poor.

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