‘This was my pepper spray:’ DA Williams speaks for first time since acquittal in tax fraud conspiracy trial

Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 6:54 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - With a film crew in tow, Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams returned to a courthouse as a prosecutor instead of a defendant on Monday (Aug. 1).

“I’m ready to get back in the courtroom and try a case this morning,” Williams said.

Williams made his first public statement since a federal jury found him not guilty last week on 10 counts related to tax fraud and conspiracy, but refused to take questions. He said he now knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the criminal justice system as a defendant.

“I suppose this was my pepper spray,” he said. “In order for an officer like Kevin Williams to carry pepper spray, he’s got to be sprayed in the face with it.

“Now, I have personally felt the pain, fear, isolation and disorientation of an abuse of power, of the abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”

But Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said, “I’d like to point out a ‘not guilty’ verdict is not evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a subjective thing. Prosecutors subjectively review the facts and the evidence and decide to bring charges against individuals. His office has done it.”

Goyeneche noted that there have been at least 25 ‘not guilty’ verdicts in Criminal District Court this year, in cases prosecuted by Williams’ office and under his leadership.

“And I don’t think he’d say that his office committed prosecutory misconduct in those cases,” Goyeneche said.

Williams said, “Whether you agree with my politics or my policies or not, what I learned is that this could happen to anyone. What happened to me can happen to anyone.”

Williams’ law partner and co-defendant in the case, Nicole Burdett, was found not guilty on the same counts as Williams related to his private law firm’s taxes. But Burdett was convicted on four separate charges of falsifying her own personal tax returns. Williams said she was wrongfully convicted.

“She acted with integrity and refused to lie or embellish the truth,” Williams said, “and she paid a dear cost for her intergrity. I’m confident that she will be vindicated and this ordeal will finally be over.”

Meanwhile, Williams said he’s ready to get back to work, starting with a murder trial.

“My role here and my goal here is to make sure that justice is served in this building behind me,” he said.

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