Federal tax fraud trial of Orleans DA Jason Williams begins with first day of jury selection

Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 6:39 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams and a partner in his private law firm entered the federal courthouse in downtown New Orleans on Monday (July 18) to face 10 felony counts of conspiracy and tax fraud in the city’s most-anticipated trial of 2022.

Williams and co-defendant Nicole Burdett Waguespack are accused of defrauding the U.S. government of more than $200,000 in taxes owed by the Jason Rogers Williams and Associates law firm. A guilty verdict on any of the 10 counts they face would force Williams out of the DA’s office, strip the defendants of their Louisiana law licenses and expose them to potential federal prison sentences.

Federal investigators and prosecutors said the pair deliberately conspired with Henry Timothy, a Westwego tax preparer who already has pleaded guilty to tax charges, to inflate business expenses of Williams’ firm by more than $700,000 and save further tax liability by failing to properly report to the Internal Revenue Service several large cash payments received by clients during the years 2013-17, when Williams sat on the New Orleans City Council.

The trial before U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk is expected to last about two weeks, and kicked off Monday with the first day of jury selection, with the first panel of 94 prospective jurors from several Southeastern Louisiana parishes filling the courtroom and being questioned by attorneys individually in private.

Before jury selection began, Africk noted for the record that federal prosecutors had offered a plea deal to both defendants, but the offers were rejected.

The list of potential witnesses is long for the case, but testimony is expected to be heard from the tax preparer Timothy, the defendants’ former law partner Robert Hjortsberg and Williams’ ex-wife Bridget Barthelemy, daughter of former New Orleans mayor Sidney Barthelemy.

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