Orleans D.A. Jason Williams’ federal tax fraud trial set to begin Monday
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams’ federal tax fraud trial is set to begin Monday morning.
“These are felony charges, and you can go to jail for them because they carry a sentence based on the crime, and also the amount of money,” says Fox 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti.
Federal prosecutors intend to prove Williams and his co-defendant and former law partner Nicole Burdett, defrauded the U.S. Treasury of more than $200,000 in owed taxes.
Prosecutors say Williams and Burdett conspired with Westwego tax preparer Henry Timothy in a scheme to inflate tax write-offs for Williams’ law firm by about $700,000 over the course of a five-year period between 2013-17.
Williams and Burdett are also charged with failing to report several large cash payments made by some of his firm’s clients.
“These are tax crimes. There are some that you aren’t reporting the cash that you deposit, and those that you are not paying the amount of taxes that you are paying,” says Raspanti.
The stakes are high in the trial, which is expected to take two weeks. Williams and Burdett each face 10 felony counts related to the alleged tax fraud conspiracy. Conviction on even one of the felony counts would cause the defendants to be stripped of their licenses to practice law in Louisiana, and thus would force Williams out of office.
Raspanti said jury selection can be the most important part of a jury trial. Williams and Burdett’s defense attorneys are from New Orleans, but the federal prosecutors will be from the Western District of Louisiana, after the Eastern District office recused itself from the case.
“The defense attorneys are local guys who tried cases from here. The Western District attorneys are not familiar with the people here,” says Raspanti.
Jury selection could take a couple of days and several witnesses are expected to take the stand, including Williams’ ex-wife, Bridget Barthelemy. She was also recently charged with a tax crime through a bill of information, accused of failing to file an income tax return in 2019. Williams’ tax preparer Henry Timothy is also expected to testify as the government’s star witness.
“From an ex-wife to the tax preparer, to many others who will have various degrees of impacts. And also, my understanding is that the defendants themselves may testify,” says Raspanti.
When we reached out to Williams’ attorney Billy Gibbens for a comment, he only told Fox 8, he’s ready to go to trial.
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