The William Jefferson Chronicles

Mose Jefferson takes the stand in his own defense
by The Times-Picayune
Tuesday August 18, 2009, 10:35 AM

Launching an assault against federal prosecutors' portrayal of him as a man who bribed a former Orleans Parish School Board member in order to land a lucrative commission, Mose Jefferson has taken the stand this morning in his own defense.

Jefferson's attorney Michael Fawer has characterized the money Jefferson gave to former school board president Ellenese Brooks-Simms as aid for his cash-strapped friend, not a bribe. Brooks-Simms pleaded guilty to taking a bribe from Jefferson in 2008.

With Brooks-Simms as a key witness, prosecutors argued last week that Jefferson gave her money to persuade the school board to buy a pricey algebra tutorial program he was selling.

But Fawer contends the payments were not bribes, and Jefferson received no such favors.

The school system spent more than $13 million on the I CAN Learn program in 2003 and 2004, purchases that needed the approval of the seven-member board. Both times, the votes were unanimous.

Fawer had three former board members testify Monday -- Elliot Willard, Una Anderson and Gail Glapion. They each said Brooks-Simms did not lobby them to support the purchase. All three said they came to support the program independently after the success of a pilot program at McDonogh 35 High School.

However, when questioned by prosecutors, each of the former board members said their perspective on the algebra tutorial would have changed if they had known Brooks-Simms had received $140,000 in what prosecutors termed "kickbacks" from Jefferson.

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