The William Jefferson Chronicles

Prosecutors: Bribery case against Mose Jefferson not racially motivated
07:43 PM CDT on Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Michael Kunzelman / Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Defense attorneys should be barred from telling jurors that the bribery case against a Louisiana congressman's brother is racially or politically motivated, prosecutors argued in court papers filed Wednesday.

Mose Jefferson, the oldest brother of indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, is awaiting trial on charges he paid bribes to former New Orleans school board president Ellenese Brooks-Simms.

Prosecutors argue that jurors would be prejudiced by any suggestion that race or politics played a role in the charges against Mose Jefferson, who is black.

"The nightmarish result of this would be a 'trial within a trial' ... all carefully calculated by the defense to divert the jury's attention from the merits of the case," prosecutors wrote.

U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon didn't immediately rule on the request to bar defense attorneys from commenting on the prosecution's possible motives at the upcoming trial.

Lawyers for Mose Jefferson didn't immediately return calls for comment.

Mose Jefferson pleaded not guilty to bribery and money laundering charges in April. He is accused of paying $140,000 in kickbacks to Brooks-Simms as a reward for her support for awarding school contracts to a computer-based teaching system owned by JRL Enterprises Inc. of Jackson, Miss. JRL gave Jefferson the exclusive right to market the company's program, prosecutors said.

Mose Jefferson's trial for the bribery case is scheduled to start Oct. 20.

He also faces separate charges that he conspired with his sister, Betty Jefferson, and a niece to pocket more than $600,000 in grant money earmarked for charitable and educational programs.

In court papers, prosecutors from U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office cite a series of newspaper and television reports to support their contention that Mose Jefferson's attorneys "may seek to improperly raise prejudicial and inflammatory allegations" during the trial.

"Within the swirl of this racially charged atmosphere, counsel for Mose Jefferson have already launched their media spin game by crafting public statements to justify and mischaracterize Jefferson's $140,000 payoff to (Brooks-Simms)," they wrote.

Rep. Jefferson, a Democrat, faces unrelated corruption charges in Alexandria, Va.

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