By now our readers, at least in the New Orleans area, surely know that the city’s district attorney Jason Williams has beaten the rap on the 10 counts of tax fraud the federal government charged him with.
It took the jury 16 hours to deliberate, finding New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams not guilty on all counts in his federal tax fraud trial.
His attorneys, Lisa Monet Wayne and Billy Gibbens, were smiling on the steps of the Federal Court House after winning their client’s case. The government failing to prove he was guilty on a count of conspiring to defraud the United States, five counts of falsifying his tax returns and four counts of failing to report cash payments.
“There was nothing there,” Monet Wayne said. “Billy and I always thought this should have never been in the court house so the jury felt the same way.”
Co-defendant Nicole Burdett, however, was found guilty on four separate counts for falsifying her own taxes.
“Nicole was collateral damage of a politically-motivated and wrongheaded prosecution – one that resulted in not guilty verdicts on 10 counts,” Attorney Mike Wagner said. “There is no way that Nicole ever would have been charged, but for the government’s overreach.”
But why was Burdett convicted and Williams cleared?
“It was the simplicity of the case against her and she was the conduit who gave the information to the return preparer,” Loyola University law professor Bill Neilson said.
Jason Williams is now a free man. He gets to keep his elected position as district attorney and can practice law, but how will this trial impact him and his ability to move forward? Has the dark cloud which loomed over the DA since he stepped into the office finally cleared?
“He’s been exonerated that’s why we have these trials and that’s why we have juries of his peers and I think he can move on,” Neilson said.
Williams’ law partner getting convicted on separate charges while he skates is the subject of all kinds of debate right now, but come on.
She’s white and not a politician. He’s black and an elected official with lots of power to decide whose nephew or cousin would get prosecuted for breaking and entering or a drug charge. And if you think that fact wasn’t an unmistakable signal to the jurors from New Orleans on that jury, you’re not paying attention.
Jason Williams was never going to go down for tax fraud. Not in the Eastern District of Louisiana. That’s just a fact.
Criminals run New Orleans now. It’s been true for years. It’s unmistakable today.
That said, given the horrific state of the Justice Department at the federal level we’re almost happy to see any nonviolent defendant get off, even if it’s Williams.
So we’ll recognize this for what it is and move on, and not waste time trying to parse the facts and legalities of why Nicole Burdette was convicted and Jason Williams was not.