NEW ORLEANS -- Grammy-winning trumpet player and New Orleans "cultural ambassador" Irvin Mayfield pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court Thursday to 19 criminal charges that include laundering money from charities he helped run to supplement his own extravagant lifestyle.
A trial date was set for March 12.
"He did it because he is not guilty," said Claude Kelly, Mayfield's attorney. "No New Orleanian has done more since Katrina to help bring this city back than Irvin Mayfield."
Indicted alongside his longtime partner Ronald Markham, Mayfield faces one count each of conspiracy, mail fraud, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice, four counts of wire fraud and 11 counts of money laundering.
Kelly filed a motion Thursday to dismiss the indictment alleging the U.S. Attorney's Office leaked information to WWL-TV because the station was in a position to be the first to report on the indictments.
"We have the evidence. We have documented it and the U.S. Attorney's office has admitted it that they leaked information to Channel 4 news about a grand jury proceeding," Kelly said in an interview after Thursday's arraignment.
In his motion, Kelly claims the alleged leak is a pattern of behavior by the government, and requested a hearing in front of the judge assigned to the case, U.S. District Court Judge Jay Zainey.
"The Government’s actions constitute outrageous misconduct that not only violated federal law, but also calls into question the legitimacy of the grand jury proceedings used by the Government for years to target and investigate Mr. Mayfield and his co-defendant, Ronald Markham," Kelly wrote.
Acting U.S. Attorney Duane Evans issued a statement late Thursday about Kelly's claims, but because it's an active case they won't comment on specific details in the motion.
"...it would be inappropriate to confirm or deny any private communications or disclosures with members of the court, or any personnel matters potentially affecting Department of Justice employees with rights under the federal Privacy Act. We intend to respond fully to defendant’s motion at the time required under local rules of court. We remain confident in the underlying merits of this prosecution and in our ability to carry the burden of proof on the charges outlined in the indictment,” Evans' statement reads.
Story continues under video of David Hammer's report on Mayfield indictment
Mayfield somehow was able to enter the federal courthouse without cameras spotting him. Markham and his attorney declined to comment as they walked in ahead of the 2 p.m. arraignment.
A federal grand jury accused Mayfield of buying a 24-carat, gold-plated trumpet, spending $23,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue and $2,000 at Harrah's Casino with money illegally taken from three charities he was supposed to help run.
In 2008, Mayfield was appointed president of the New Orleans Public Library Foundation, the donation organization that raised money to supplement the city's historically-underfunded library system.
The indictment alleges Mayfield took money from the NOPLF, transferring it to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, a non-profit he founded in the spirit of expanding the public's access to jazz.
Mayfield and Markham were each paid six-figure salaries by NOJO and by 2012, with Markham on the board of NOPLF, both men controlled the finances of NOPLF and NOJO.
NOJO also paid tens of thousands to Mayfield's private production company, Mayfield Production, over the years.
During Mayfield's time on the NOPLF board, he successfully tapped $1.1 million in public grants for the foundation to build the New Orleans Jazz Market on O.C. Haley Blvd. in Central City, a community center, performance venue and bar.
The amount of the grants used to build the jazz market exceeded the foundation's contributions to the library system from 2011 to 2014, and Mayfield justified the expense saying the facility would serve as a specialized music library branch.
But the criminal case against Mayfield and Markham centers more around foundation money allegedly funneled into their own pockets and extravagant spending, including $32,330 paid for hotel stays in New York City in 2012 and a $38,924 fee paid to Carnegie Hall so Mayfield could perform.
The indictment also alleges Mayfield used an account for him through Youth Rescue Initiative, another non-profit for which Mayfield was on the board, to launder library funds.
YRI funds were used to purchase Mayfield's 24-carat gold trumpet, also according to the indictment.
Problems with Mayfield and Markham and the library foundation funds were first exposed in a series of investigative reports over the past two-and-a-half years by WWL-TV Investigative Reporter David Hammer.
In a statement issued July 5 2016 in response to the reports, Mayfield said, "I do not believe that I have violated any law."
Stay with WWLTV.com and tune in to Eyewitness News at 5 p.m. for more on this breaking story.
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