New Orleans’ DA-elect loses bid to avoid tax fraud trial

January 9, 2021 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge has refused to dismiss the tax fraud charges pending against Orleans Parish District Attorney-elect Jason Williams.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman on Friday denied a motion by Williams and his law partner, Nicole Burdett, to throw out the 11-count indictment against them based on their allegations of “vindictive” and “selective” prosecution. In an 85-page order, Feldman found no evidence that federal prosecutors singled them out to keep Williams from holding public office, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.

“Has clear evidence been presented to support the theory that the decision to prosecute Jason Williams was based on a desire to prevent him from exercising his right to hold and run for public office? No. Or that he is a black person? No,’” Feldman wrote.

The decision removes one of the last big hurdles for prosecutors from the Western District of Louisiana as they seek to try Williams, now a City Council member, and Burdett in federal court in New Orleans. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans recused itself from the case.

A trial had been scheduled to start Monday, the same day Williams becomes the chief prosecutor in New Orleans, but has been postponed for at least two months under a court order over the pandemic.

The indictment alleges that Williams and Burdette conspired to inflate Williams’ business expenses by more than $700,000 over five tax years, which prosecutors claim saved him more than $200,000. It also alleges that Williams failed to file the proper tax forms for reporting cash receipts.

Both Williams and Burdette have pleaded not guilty while claiming that it was Henry Timothy, their tax preparer, who took the excessive deductions on his own, while holding himself out falsely as a CPA. Timothy has claimed that Williams, through Burdett, pressured him to bloat the business write-offs.

IRS records show that Timothy took similarly big deductions for hundreds of his other business clients, and Feldman noted that Williams and Burdett were alone among those clients in being prosecuted over them.

Timothy pleaded guilty to tax fraud this week, for fudging his own taxes, and is cooperating with prosecutors in their case against Williams and Burdett.

Feldman has not set a new trial date.