Story Summary

Renee Gill Pratt Trial

Gill Pratt, a protégé of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for allegedly stealing money earmarked for nonprofits that she and Jefferson’s family members ran. A trial early in 2011 ended in a mistrial; jurors were unable to come to a consensus on her guilt after 30 hours of deliberations.

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News with a Twist

End of the Jefferson era

When former State Representative and City Council President Renee Gill Pratt was found guilty for conspiring to loot Central City Charities this week, it marked the end of an era.  Not so much the Gill Pratt era, but the era of Bill Jefferson and his Progressive Democrats.

Jefferson and his clan ruled New Orleans elections for decades.  His political machine almost guaranteed who would be elected or reelected.

Then the trouble started for Jefferson and his family.  First the ex-Congressman was found guilty of 11 bribery related charges.  A few short months later, Bill’s older brother Mose Jefferson was convicted of bribery.  Next up were sisters Brenda Foster and then, 4th district assessor Betty Jefferson.  Those two, along with Jefferson’s niece Angela Coleman, were guilty of looting charities.  And finally, brother Mose longtime girlfriend, Gill Pratt.

With his final appeal almost exhausted, Bill Jefferson, the patriarch of the crime family, should be in a federal jail cell  before the year is out.

Let’s recap.  Bill Jefferson-convicted felon.  His brother Mose Jefferson- convicted felon.  His 2 sisters, Brenda and Betty-convicted felons.  His niece Angela Coleman-convicted felon.  And finally his brother’s girlfriend, Gill Pratt-convicted felon.

That’s a lot of convicted felons!

Thank goodness for extremely effective U.S. Attn Jim Letton and his Asst U.S. attn’s Daniel Friel, Fred Harper, and Brian Marcel.  They did the heavy lifting by putting away the major players in the Jefferson family criminal enterprise.

It’s the end of an era.  The Bill Jefferson era.  And that’s very good news for New Orleans.

After two hours of deliberation, a jury found former councilwoman and State Rep. Renee Gill Pratt guilty of one count of conspiring to violate the RICO Act.

The two and a half week trial wrapped up Monday at Federal Court after the judge declared a mistrial in the first case against Gill Pratt in February 2011 when the jury could not agree on a verdict after 30 hours of deliberations.

Both the defense and prosecution teams used the full one hour and 15 minutes they were allotted for their final statements on Monday.

Gill Pratt remained unemotional as the jury read the verdict before the courtroom. She faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for  one count of conspiracy.

Gill Pratt is the final member of the once powerful group which includes former Congressman William Jefferson, his late brother Mose Jefferson, his sister Betty Jefferson and her daughter Angela Coleman all indicted on similar charges for involvement in post- Hurricane Katrina money laundering.

Gill Pratt will be sentenced in 60 days.


Betty Jefferson Testifies Against Renee Gill Pratt

The most powerful testimony of the day came from Betty Jefferson. She sat in the witness box distraught, saying she had recently found out her daughter Angela Coleman is fighting an illness and said she still did not know what the illness was.

This is the second time Jefferson testifies against Renee Gill Pratt. Today she said “I hope to tell the truth.” “At one point it was uncontrollable.” “I’d just like to move on with my life.”

Betty Jefferson and her daughter Angela Coleman have already plead guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Jefferson said for some time the charities existed but eventually stopped saying “through checks that we wrote the money was there.” “But the students were not.” “It existed on paper.” “It didn’t function because it didn’t have the students it needed to function.”

Jefferson said having Gill Pratt in the House was essential and that it was “always important to have people in the position you have contact with to get your program.”

Also testifying was John Lee who sold the ‘I Can Learn’ software. Gill Pratt appropriated $300,000 in state funding for the software to be installed in two schools. Mose Jefferson received $30,000 from the deal.

Under cross examination Lee was asked “from your knowledge she (Gill Pratt) had no awareness you ultimately paid $30,000 to Mose?” Lee replied, “No.”

Connie Nelson who worked with the Louisiana Urban Affairs division testified Gill Pratt sought grant funding for charities operated by the Jefferson family, but said their are “No restrictions” when it comes to seeking funding for a charity operated by friends or family.

Trial resumes tomorrow at 8:30am with the defense cross examining Betty Jefferson.

For the second time this year former New Orleans Councilwoman and State Rep. Renee Gill Prattreported to federal court for trial.

Gill Pratt is accused of conspiring with the family of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson to steal more than a million taxpayer dollars earmarked for charities that they operated.

On Monday morning a courtroom full of potential jurors answered questions about their knowledge of the case and their experience with nonprofit organizations.

At one point tempers flared as Gill Pratt’s attorney Michael Fawer spoke over Judge Ivan Lemelle and continued questioning a potential juror. Lemelle threatened to cite him for unprofessional behavior and took over the questioning process.

In February Gill Pratt escaped conviction on the same charges because of a hung jury. Eleven jurors were reportedly ready to convict her, but one holdout forced a mistrial.

Federal prosecutors vowed then to retry Gill Pratt, a longtime Jefferson protégé and former companion of William Jefferson’s older brother Mose.

Lemelle said he hoped to seat a jury by Tuesday afternoon.

Judge Ivan Lemelle has declared a mistrial in the racketeering trial of Renee Gill Pratt. Jurors told the judge that they did not believe further deliberations would result in anyone changing their mind.

Thursday morning, jurors a note to the judge saying that they had not changed positions since last Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle says he’s ready to use a century-old practice in the trial of Renee Gill Pratt. It’s called an Allen Charge and it’s purpose it to break juror deadlock.

An Allen Charge is used to remind jurors how much time and effort is put into a trial and that they need to carefully consider the evidence. The goal is to prevent a hung jury or mistrial. Because of its strong wording, an Allen Charge can only be delivered one time during deliberation. Judge Lemelle said Wednesday he’s prepared to used an Allen Charge, after jurors told him they were “stuck.” Lemelle instructed the jury to return in the morning.

Although the jury only has one charge to consider, it’s a complicated one. Gill Pratt faces one count of conspiracy under RICO. That’s the “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” Act. To find Gill Pratt guilty, the jury must unanimously agree she participated in at least 2 acts of racketeering such as money laundering or mail fraud. Gill Pratt is accused of working with the powerful Jefferson family to steer millions into sham charities. There’s no real dispute that the charities were defrauded. The question at hand is whether Gill Pratt knowingly funneled the taxpayer money.

Thursday will mark the 5th day of deliberations in the case. Experts say in general, the longer a jury deliberates, the better the outcome will be for the defense.

News with a Twist

The Jefferson Clan

The federal trial continues for Renee Gill-Pratt, a former New Orleans City Council President, who allegedly stole federal and state funds appropriated for sham non-profits. Meanwhile, the bogus charities were run by former U.S. Congressman Bill Jefferson’s family: Mose & Betty.

While he ran things from D.C., Bill’s sister Betty was a New Orleans city assessor.  His brother Mose, a convicted felon – not to be confused with Bill’s other convicted felon brother Archie – was dating the aforementioned New Orleans city council president, Renee Gill-Pratt. Mose was also dating then Orleans Parish School Board president Ellenese Brooks-Sims.  One of Bill’s daughter’s was a state Representative in Baton Rouge.  I’m not making this up!!!

They had it all covered: D.C., Baton Rouge, the city council, the school board, even the assessors office.

The Jefferson clan secured the funds. Then steered them toward the fake non profits. Those so-called charities were originally set up to help pregnant black teens and train young black males for the work force.  Essentially poor, underprivileged black kids that needed the help the most!   Other money stolen was for black elderly folks on limited incomes.  Again, the poor and needy.

David Duke would have loved this.  Stealing money set aside for underprivileged black youths and elderly while living the life of luxury.  Screwing over blacks and profiting from it too?!?  They call that lagniappe in Duke’s zany world.  Getting your cake and eating too.

David Duke was a nightmare.  But Bill Jefferson was the real thing.  And he did what David Duke could only dream of.