Federal judge refuses to toss out Nicole Burdett’s tax fraud conviction
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The federal judge who presided over this summer’s tax fraud trial of Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams and his law firm’s partner Nicole Burdett has denied her request to throw out her conviction.
U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk ruled Monday (Nov. 14) that a jury’s decision to find Burdett guilty of four counts of filing false returns on her personal taxes for the years 2014-17 was not improper based on the evidence presented by federal prosecutors.
“It is beyond this Court’s authority to second guess the jury’s determination when the government provided sufficient evidence to support it,” Africk wrote.
The ruling clears the way for Burdett to be sentenced by Africk, as scheduled, on Nov. 30.
The same jury that convicted Burdett on July 28 acquitted her and Williams on 10 separate felony counts they faced together. The government alleged they had conspired with Westwego tax preparer Henry Timothy to conceal large cash payments, inflate business deductions and file fraudulent tax returns for the Jason Williams and Associates law firm over a five-year period.
Burdett’s attorney Michael Magner said his client was offered immunity in exchange for testifying against Williams. She rejected the offer, and broke down in tears inside the courtroom when her guilty verdict on the four separate counts related to her personal tax returns was read.
Burdett filed a post-conviction motion seeking acquittal from Africk, claiming that the government failed to prove her guilty at trial because of insufficient evidence.
Africk conceded the prosecution effort was uneven in proving every element of its theories, but wrote, “The jury could reasonably have concluded, as Burdett contends, that Burdett was simply reckless or negligent with regard to her taxes. It could also have reasonably concluded, however, that Burdett knew that Timothy was taking improper deductions on her behalf and that she continued to use his services in order to reduce her tax liability.
“Timothy was Burdett’s tax preparer between 2010-17. Her tax returns reflected a consistent pattern of very dubious deductions for at least four years in a row.”
In addition to facing up to 18 months of federal prison time, Burdett also was stripped of her law license in mid-September by the Louisiana Supreme Court, in recognition that she is a convicted felon.
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