Indicted musician Irvin Mayfield appealed to a federal district court judge Thursday, asking him to overrule a magistrate judge who recently denied him and his co-defendant the right to travel to South Africa this summer to perform at an international jazz festival.
Mayfield and his longtime pianist and business partner Ronald Markham are facing 19 felony counts of conspiracy, money laundering, fraud and obstruction of justice for funneling more than $1.3 million in public library donations to their jazz orchestra and, allegedly, their own pockets.
The payments were exposed by WWL-TV in 2015 and 2016.
The two musicians were released on bond in January as they await a trial now scheduled for October, and they had to surrender their passports. But Mayfield has since been offered $7,500, plus travel expenses, to perform for two days at the Soweto International Jazz Festival in Johannesburg in June. He planned to have Markham and two others join him for the shows, but had to get approval from the court first.
They got the support of the U.S. Probation Office, which did not deem Mayfield and Markham flight risks. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Dall Kammer argued they were “significant flight risks,” that extraditing them from South Africa would be difficult and the $7,500 performance fee was not large enough to justify the risk.
Mayfield and Markham’s attorneys argued the exact opposite: That they both have strong family ties to keep them in New Orleans, no connections to South Africa, that extraditions from South Africa are historically swift and that $7,500 actually means a lot to musicians who rely primarily on gigs to support their families.
Mayfield and Markham also offered in their motion to put tracking devices on their cell phones and have another person pay a surety bond to give extra assurances that they would return from Africa.
U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey is scheduled to hold a hearing next Tuesday to review the decision by Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles III, who rejected Mayfield and Markham’s request March 6.