The William Jefferson Chronicles

Mose Jefferson goes before federal grand jury
Posted by The Times-Picayune June 27, 2007 9:43AM
Categories: Breaking News -

Mose Jefferson, the eldest brother of indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, said nothing as he left the federal courthouse in New Orleans after testifying before a grand jury investigating a school board bribery scheme.

Mose Jefferson, brother of Congressman William Jefferson, walks into the Federal Building on Poydras Street in New Orleans Wednesday with his attorney Ike Spears.

His appearance comes a week after former School Board member Ellenese Brooks-Simms said Jefferson paid her $140,000 in bribes to help secure a lucrative contract for JRL Enterprises, which he represented.

Jefferson left the courthouse just after 3:30 p.m. with attorney Ike Spears. Spears issued a terse comment: "Mr. Jefferson did not bribe anybody. The evidence will show that."

Asked if he believed his client would be indicted, Spears said, "You'll have to ask the U.S. Attorney's Office that."

The grand jury proceedings are secret, and were held on the building's fourth floor.

Also testifying were Orleans Parish School Board members Jimmy Fahrenholtz and Una Anderson and former City Councilwoman and state Rep. Renee Gill Pratt, who has had a longtime relationship with Mose Jefferson.

Fahrenholtz and Anderson arrived about an hour apart and were not accompanied by attorneys.

Gill Pratt was accompanied by lawyer Trevor Bryan, a principal in Bill Jefferson's old law firm, now known as Bryan and Jupiter.

A former aide to Bill Jefferson when he served in the state Senate in the 1980s, Gill Pratt refused to comment as she left the courthouse, head down.

Brooks-Simms, in a plea deal last week, admitted taking about $140,000 in bribes from a businessman, who sources close to the case say is Mose Jefferson. Prosecutors said the bribes were provided by "Mr. A," a lobbyist for JRL Enterprises, who was paid more than $900,000 as his "sales commission" for products purchased by the Orleans Parish school system.

Under terms of the agreement, the so-called "Mr. A" was to receive 10 percent of the total sales of the "I CAN Learn" math tutorial program purchased by the public school system. The marketing effort, assisted by Brooks-Simms, continued for most of the one term that Brooks-Simms represented Algiers and parts of the East Bank on the board.

As they exited the federal courthouse around noon, both Farenholtz and Anderson declined to discuss the specifics of what was said in the grand jury room. Farenholtz, however, said the questions centered on "how things get on agendas and how contracts are handled."

"I was asked some general questions about board operations and policy to help educate the grand jury about how things are done or should be done," he said.

Fahrenholtz and Anderson generally backed Brooks-Simms early in her tenure on the school board, when she served as president. Later, the duo led a revolt against Brooks-Simms, resulting in the election of Cheryl Mills as board president. Both said they provided no documents to the grand jury.

Farenholtz went on to say he "had no idea" about Mose Jefferson's alleged involvement in the I CAN Learn contract. "I thought the whole process was as clean as it comes."

When asked if he had any comment regarding Brooks-Simms' admission last week, he said, "It's sad. I'm sure the U.S. attorney's office will get to the very bottom of it. ... I don't want to say that I'm not surprised. Things happen. Forces come into play and people can't resist."

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