The William Jefferson Chronicles

Mose and Betty Jefferson land high-powered defense attorneys
by Gordon Russell, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday October 01, 2008, 2:31 PM

Political strategist Mose Jefferson and his sister, 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson, have each hired a prominent criminal-defense lawyer for their upcoming federal trial on charges that they bilked more than $600,000 from charities they controlled.

Mose Jefferson is represented by the colorful Arthur "Buddy" Lemann III, who frequently annoys prosecutors with his propensity for sarcastic and sometimes inflammatory jabs at the government and its motives.

In keeping with that image, Lemann invited reporters onto the courthouse steps Tuesday and announced: "Mose Jefferson has pleaded not guilty. He is presumed innocent under the Constitution. He's a Democrat, and he's not from Wall Street. So I'm ready to rock'n'roll."

Betty Jefferson, meanwhile, will be represented by veteran lawyer Eddie Castaing, who, like Lemann, often takes federal defendants to trial.

Castaing said he was there "to protect her rights and show she is innocent of any of the charges alleged in the indictment. In the end, she will be exonerated."

Lemann and Castaing made their first appearances in the case a few mintues earlier at a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Louis Moore. The Jefferson siblings had been directed to hire new lawyers after prosecutors successfully sought the dismissal of Ike Spears, who had represented both of them.

Spears was disqualified from the case because he had also represented a third Jefferson sibling, Brenda Foster, who is expected to testify for the government. The case is tentatively set for trial Dec. 1, but it is almost certain to be delayed.

At 3 p.m., U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon is scheduled to take up a disqualification motion in a separate case in which Mose Jefferson is accused of bribing the former president of the Orleans Parish School Board.

The government wants Lemmon to disqualify Spears from that case as well. In addition, they want Lemmon to bar certain lines of argument from Jefferson's lawyers, such as questioning the prosecution's motives in targeting him.

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