NEW ORLEANS — It took the jury 16 hours to deliberate, finding New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams not guilty on all counts in his federal tax fraud trial.
His attorneys, Lisa Monet Wayne and Billy Gibbens, were smiling on the steps of the Federal Court House after winning their client's case. The government failing to prove he was guilty on a count of conspiring to defraud the United States, five counts of falsifying his tax returns and four counts of failing to report cash payments.
“There was nothing there," Monet Wayne said. "Billy and I always thought this should have never been in the court house so the jury felt the same way.”
Co-defendant Nicole Burdett, however, was found guilty on four separate counts for falsifying her own taxes.
“Nicole was collateral damage of a politically-motivated and wrongheaded prosecution – one that resulted in not guilty verdicts on 10 counts," Attorney Mike Wagner said. "There is no way that Nicole ever would have been charged, but for the government's overreach.”
But why was Burdett convicted and Williams cleared?
“It was the simplicity of the case against her and she was the conduit who gave the information to the return preparer," Loyola University law professor Bill Neilson said.
Jason Williams is now a free man. He gets to keep his elected position as district attorney and can practice law, but how will this trial impact him and his ability to move forward? Has the dark cloud which loomed over the DA since he stepped into the office finally cleared?
“He’s been exonerated that’s why we have these trials and that’s why we have juries of his peers and I think he can move on," Neilson said.
Burdett is set to be sentenced on Sept. 30, but what’s next for her?
“I think they’re going to sentence her to jail then she’s going to be on probation and the IRS is also going to pursue her for the civil aspects of this case," Neilson said.
Professor Neilson says it will be very difficult for Burdett to appeal. Her conviction means she can no longer practice law in the state of Louisiana. After her sentence, she can re-apply for her license, but it’ll be difficult to get back in.
He also told Eyewitness News Jason Williams isn’t out of the woods yet, they could still come after him for civil fraud. That doesn’t mean jail time, but if they can prove civil fraud he would have to pay back nearly half-million dollars.
It wouldn’t affect his position as DA, but he could possible face an expensive future.
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