One week after indictment, Renee Gill Pratt takes leave from SUNO
by Bruce Eggler, The Times-Picayune
Saturday May 30, 2009, 9:25 AM
A week after she was indicted on federal racketeering charges, former state Rep. and New Orleans City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt has taken an unpaid leave of absence from her job at Southern University at New Orleans.
The university announced Friday that Gill Pratt "has voluntarily taken an administrative leave of absence for an indefinite period without pay" from her job as SUNO's director of admissions, recruitment and retention. The leave is effective immediately.
The announcement came three days after it was announced that Gill Pratt had been named to SUNO Chancellor Victor Ukpolo's executive Cabinet, or inner circle of advisers.
In a news release issued Friday by the school, Ukpolo was quoted as saying: "Ms. Pratt has been employed at SUNO since 2006. Due to personal matters, she has elected to leave the university at this time. We wish both her and her family well."
Gill Pratt was indicted by a federal grand jury May 22 on charges that she and other members of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson's political family operated a "criminal enterprise" that raided nonprofit organizations created to help disadvantaged people.
She is scheduled to be arraigned Friday.
Her indictment came nearly a year after a grand jury indicted her longtime companion, Mose Jefferson; his sister, 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson; and Angela Coleman, Betty Jefferson's daughter, on various charges of skimming money from nonprofit organizations.
The indictment of Gill Pratt also included new, superseding charges against the two Jeffersons, siblings of the former congressman, and Coleman. A news release issued by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office accused the four of operating "a criminal enterprise for (their own) financial and political benefit" from 1991 through 2006.
The indictment added Gill Pratt to the alleged conspiracy to launder money from nonprofit groups, while offering some new details of how the money allegedly was spent.
Gill Pratt also was accused of improperly taking possession of vehicles donated to the city after Hurricane Katrina, channeling city rent money to one of Mose Jefferson's buildings, and using state and city dollars to pay Carnival krewe dues.
The grand jury indicted all four defendants under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a favorite prosecutorial weapon because of its enhanced penalties and forfeiture provisions. A RICO case also allows prosecutors to go beyond the five-year statute of limitations for most federal crimes, bringing up alleged criminal acts that occurred further in the past.
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Bruce Eggler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3320.