Mose Jefferson's lawyer wants out of racketeering case
by Laura Maggi, The Times-Picayune
Tuesday July 21, 2009, 2:25 PM
One of Mose Jefferson's lawyers today asked a federal judge to let the lawyer leave a racketeering case, saying a federal government hold on a Central City apartment building owned by the defendant means that lawyers for the New Orleans political consultant will not get paid.
Arthur "Buddy" Lemann III told U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle that he couldn't represent Jefferson without compensation, filing a motion to withdraw and another to stay the racketeering case, which accuses members of the Jefferson political family of skimming money from non-profits meant to help impoverished New Orleanians.
Mose Jefferson, the oldest brother of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, was indicted along with his sister, 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson, and her daughter, Angela Coleman. Former state legislator and City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt, a longtime girlfriend of Mose Jefferson, was also indicted in the case in late May.
Lemelle rejected Lemann's request that he be allowed to immediately withdraw. The judge said he plans to reconsider whether to lift a federal government notice concerning Loyola Avenue property that effectively prevents it from being sold or used as collateral for a loan. Lemann and Michael Fawer, who represents Jefferson in a bribery case before a different federal judge, want to arrange a loan against the value of the building as a means of paying their legal fees.
At the same hearing, Lemelle also rejected defense motions to hold two trials in the RICO case against the four defendants, trying Mose Jefferson and Gill Pratt separately from Betty Jefferson and Coleman. Defense attorneys for Mose Jefferson and Gill Pratt argued the charges against them were more narrow, noting that Betty Jefferson and her daughter also face a large number of other allegations, including tax evasion and identity theft charges.
But federal prosecutor Daniel Friel argued that while some defendants face additional charges, all four are accused of participating in the same conspiracy to defraud the non-profit groups. Each contributed to this conspiracy, so they should be tried together, he said.
Although Lemelle said he was persuaded in part by defense arguments that it was unfair to lump defendants facing fewer counts in with those accused of more expansive wrongdoing, he rejected the defense motion. As facts develop in the case, attorneys are free to file new motions to divide the case, he said.