Just as Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams and his legal partner Nicole Burdett could face trial on federal tax evasion charges is pending, a federal judge said Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman says “no trial date is certain” for Williams and Burdett until federal appeals court rules on government challenge to order issued by Feldman last month on evidence in the case.
Louisiana West District prosecutors oppose Feldman’s decision to exclude evidence of Williams’ long history of late tax returns, payments and liens. The US attorney’s office in New Orleans has long withdrawn from the case.
Judge: Prosecutors cannot investigate past tax problems with prosecutor Jason Williams in January trial
For months, the two sides have been preparing for a trial on January 24. For Williams, the government’s call means a potentially long reprieve from the spotlight of a criminal trial as he enters his second year in office.
Williams campaigned as a progressive reformer while facing an indictment weeks before he qualified for the seat in July 2020. He alleged a political motive behind his prosecution.
But Williams’ lawyers seemed eager to move the trial forward in a letter to United States Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar on Wednesday. Such pre-trial appeals are rare in federal courts and must be approved at a higher level. Williams’ attorneys Billy Gibbens and Lisa Wayne begged Prelogar to turn him down.
“This case has dragged on for far too long – since June 2020 – and it has posed serious obstacles to Mr. Williams’ ability to perform the duties of his elected office and protect the people of New Orleans,” they said. writing. “The trial of this case on the merits should proceed immediately.”
Prosecutors are now asking the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to review Feldman’s ruling, in a bid to convince a jury that Williams’ previous tax woes led him to hire a Westwego tax preparer, Henry Timothy, for inflating his trade deductions.
Prosecutors say Williams and Burdett ordered Timothy to reduce Williams’ tax liability by more than $ 200,000 over five years by inserting the bogus write-offs.
Williams and Burdett claim that Timothy did it on his own and only changed his story after authorities pressed him to sort out his own tax problems. Timothy has since pleaded guilty to his own tax returns.
Attorney Jason Williams’ Tax Evasion Trial Nears, Judge Warns of Federal “Overbreadth”
Williams and Burdett face an 11-count indictment alleging that they conspired to inflate Williams’ business expenses by more than $ 700,000 during those five tax years, ending in 2017. They each face one charge of conspiracy, five counts of tax evasion and five counts of failure to complete the appropriate forms for large cash receipts. Burdett also faces charges for his own tax returns.
Feldman telegraphed a delay this week after prosecutors said they would appeal his ruling. The judge hinted at an extended deadline, noting that several other cases were already awaiting jury trials in his court.
It is uncertain how long the appeals court might take to rule before Feldman revises a trial date.