Should Orleans DA Jason Williams be optimistic heading into second week of federal tax fraud trial?

Published: Jul. 24, 2022 at 2:14 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams returns to federal court Monday (July 25) for the second week of his high-stakes tax fraud trial.

Should Williams and co-defendant Nicole Burdett be convicted on any of the 10 felony counts they face, they would be stripped of their law licenses, which would force Williams out of office as the city’s top prosecutor.

Williams and Burdett are being prosecuted by U.S. Attorneys from the Western District of Louisiana, after the office of the New Orleans-based Eastern District recused itself from the case when Williams was indicted more than two years ago.

Lead prosecutor Kelly Uebinger heads the Lafayette-based team attempting to prove to a jury of nine women and three men that Williams and Burdett conspired with Westwego tax preparer Henry Timothy to inflate business expenses of the Jason Rogers Williams and Associates law firm by nearly $780,000, so that Williams’ law office could avoid paying more than $200,000 in taxes owed to the federal government.

Fox 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti, a longtime New Orleans-based attorney, says Williams and Burdett could take some comfort that Timothy proved to be a poor witness last week, which could hurt the government’s ability to prove the first six counts of the indictment, which relate to the alleged criminal conspiracy and the deliberate filing of fraudulent tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service.

“At least for these first six counts, the prosecution has very much struggled, and so has her star witness,” Raspanti said. “I mean, he (Timothy) was horrible.”

But Raspanti said the strength of the government’s case could reveal itself in this second week of trial, when testimony and evidence shifts to the other four counts alleging that Williams and Burdett deliberately failed to report several large cash payments made to his law firm by clients, each in excess of $10,000.

“That’s a very ‘linear’ charge,” Raspanti said. “You need to get the Form 8300 turned in to the federal agency. And if you don’t do it, it’s a crime.”

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