|Solo trial for Mose Jefferson postponed|
2nd case involving relatives unaffected
Friday, September 19, 2008
By Gordon Russell
One of two upcoming federal trials faced by political strategist Mose Jefferson, the elder brother of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, has been pushed back by five months at prosecutors' request and is now set for late March.
Mose Jefferson is the lone defendant in the case, which had been set for trial Oct. 20. He is charged with bribing Ellenese Brooks-Simms, the former president of the Orleans Parish School Board, for her support for a computer-based algebra curriculum he was selling.
A tentative trial date of Dec. 1 has been set for his other pending case. In that one, Mose Jefferson and two relatives -- his sister, 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson, and her daughter, Angela Coleman -- are charged with stealing more than $600,000 from a group of charities they controlled.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office filed the request for the delay in the School Board case Thursday, along with a motion asking U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon to disqualify Mose Jefferson's attorney, Ike Spears.
Earlier this week, a judge granted a similar motion filed by prosecutors in the other case, in which Spears had represented both Mose and Betty Jefferson.
The government argued that Spears had a conflict of interest that could not be resolved: He previously represented Brenda Foster, a younger sibling of the Jeffersons. Foster, who was an employee of one of the charities, has since pleaded guilty to a crime and agreed to testify against her brother and sister.
Letten's office gave the same reasons for wanting Spears out in the School Board case, though it is less clear what value Foster has as a government witness in that case.
In seeking the delay, prosecutors noted that the School Board case "is complex and involves a large volume of electronic and documentary evidence which needs to be reviewed prior to trial." In addition, they argued that the conflict question regarding Spears and "issues regarding reciprocal discovery" needed to be worked out.
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Gordon Russell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 826-3347.