NEW ORLEANS — A final status hearing ahead of the tax fraud trial against New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams and his law partner Nicole Burdett was held in federal court Tuesday. And after the closed-door hearing, the defense attorneys stood by what they told WWL-TV earlier: They plan to go to try as scheduled on July 18.
Williams’ attorney Billy Gibbens and Burdett’s attorney Mike Magner had little to say as they emerged from court following the hour-long pre-trial conference with U.S. District Judge Lance Africk and government prosecutors.
But both attorneys reiterated their public position, stated repeatedly by Williams, that they are preparing to defend the tax fraud counts in front of a jury.
“Ready for trial,” Magner said as he walked out of court.
In the 11-count indictment, Williams and Burdett are accused of inflating business deductions at Williams' law firm by more than $700,000 over a five-year period from 2013 to 2017.
Williams, who was elected to the DA's office in 2020 while under indictment, has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, at one point calling the indictment politically motivated.
Through their attorneys, Williams and Burdette have claimed that any problems with their tax returns were the fault of their former tax preparer Timothy Henry. In a separate case, Henry, who is expected to be a key government witness, pleaded guilty in January 2021 to filing his own false tax return.
The stakes in the case were raised in April when the state Attorney General’s office charged Burdett with Medicaid fraud. Magner proclaimed Burdett’s innocence on that charge, calling the matter an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”
While at least one court motion remains unresolved in the tax fraud case, the last steps before trial are already underway, including the service of 29 government subpoenas, court records show.