DA Jason Williams’ federal tax fraud trial reassigned to Judge Lance Africk
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk will preside over the upcoming federal tax fraud trial of Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams and co-defendant Nicole Burdett Waguespack, court records show.
The case was randomly allotted to Africk’s courtroom on Monday (Jan. 31), as New Orleans’ federal court began reassigning cases that had been on the docket of U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who died Jan. 26 at age 87.
Africk, 70, is a former state and federal prosecutor, and no stranger to high-profile cases.
The 2002 George W. Bush appointee presided over the 2011 federal civil rights trial related to the killing of Henry Glover by New Orleans Police Department officers. Africk sentenced former NOPD officer David Warren to more than 25 years and former NOPD officer Greg MacRae to more than 17 years in that case. Warren later was granted a second trial and was acquitted.
Africk also has been the judge overseeing the federal consent decree governing the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and its management of the Orleans Justice Center jail. Africk has firmly rebuffed efforts by city officials and activists opposed to his ordered construction of a separate jail facility to house inmates needing specialized mental health resources.
Williams and Burdett Waguespack each were indicted in June 2020 on 11 counts related to federal tax fraud involving Williams’ private criminal defense law practice. Burdett faces four additional counts accusing her of falsifying personal tax returns.
When their trial will begin remains uncertain. Federal prosecutors from the Western District of Louisiana have appealed December decisions by Feldman that would limit the evidence they could show jurors of Williams’ earlier IRS troubles, and of lavish lifestyles the defendants are accused of providing themselves as tax cheats.
The trial was supposed to begin Jan. 24, but was postponed without a new date, pending the outcome of the government’s appeal.
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