Letter From New Orleans: District Attorneys 3 Feds 0

Jim Garrison, Harry Connick, and Jason Williams.

The big story in New Orleans has been the federal tax fraud trial of Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams. It ended with a whimper, not a bang. Williams was acquitted on all ten counts but his co-defendant and former law partner Nicole Burdett was convicted on four counts.

The headline of one of the New Orleans Picvocate’s stories about the verdict pleased me as it invoked the Omar Little maxim: ‘You come at the king, you best not miss’: Jason Williams’ acquittal is rare whiff for feds

I’m not sure about that last bit: this is the third time that a New Orleans DA has been tried and acquitted in federal court. As with the dread Jim Garrison and the singing DA Harry Connick, Williams walked because of a weak case against him. That’s Harry Connick Sr, not this guy:

That was Junior’s post-Katrina anthem. Let’s get back to the Williams case.

I don’t know anything about tax law, but it’s painfully obvious that the Feds had a piss poor case against the DA. The main witness against the defendants was their tax man, Henry Timothy. I never trust a guy with two first names instead of proper surname. What kind of last name is Timothy anyway? It evokes this old song:

That song was about a mine disaster. The Williams case was a different kind of disaster for the prosecution.

Henry Timothy was a weak witness who couldn’t connect Williams to any fraud. His co-defendant was the one who dealt with Henry Timmy. It proved to be her undoing.

I’m nether a fan nor detractor of Jason Williams. I didn’t vote for him because of the indictment but I wasn’t convinced he was guilty either. The mere thought of tax law makes me feel narcoleptic. I am more likely to vote for him next time around after this pitiful prosecution. The case was so weak that Williams did not mount a defense.

Williams has argued that this was a persecution, not a prosecution based on his status as a progressive prosecutor. I was dubious until the trial. Now I think he’s on to something.

Williams stans have argued that this was a racially motivated case brought when the Trump regime was in power. The weakness of the case against him bolsters that argument.

My estimation of Jason Williams as a human being went up after the verdict. He didn’t hold a triumphant press conference right after the trial because his co-defendant and friend Nicole Burdett was convicted. Instead, Williams reacted with humanity and hugged his former law partner. I’m sure he’ll hold a presser soon but his support of Burdett shows that he’s a standup guy.

Burdett’s lawyer summed up my feelings about her conviction:

“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.”

Another disturbing fact is that the Feds didn’t investigate any of Hank Timmy’s other clients. If he’s a fraudster, why were only Williams and Burdett targeted? Again, Burdett was collateral damage: she was charged because the Feds hoped to flip her. This was a case of prosecutorial indiscretion, not discretion.

The Williams-Burdett case was an abuse of prosecutorial power. Defendants should never be placed in the dock for political reasons. It should serve as a cautionary tale for any prosecution of the Impeached Insult Comedian in either state or federal court. They should make sure they have a strong case before filing charges.

The last word, once again, goes to Omar Little: