Jason Williams not guilty

A jury has found Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams innocent of tax fraud charges.Williams and Burdett were both found not guilty on all ten counts they faced for tax fraud. Burdett was found guilty on four counts of filing false tax returns. The case involved allegations of unpaid taxes from Williams’ private law firm, where Burdett was a lawyer and also was described as a business manager.The verdict comes two years after allegations surfaced shortly after Williams launched his campaign for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office. He maintained his innocence throughout, saying the federal prosecution’s case stemmed from political motives. The trial was handed over to the jury after a week. Neither Williams nor Nicole Burdett was put on the stand to testify. The federal government tried to prove that Williams and his law partner, Nicole Burdett, were willful and knowledgeable of the false amounts on their tax returns. The defense claimed that the prosecution did not meet the burden of proof for any of the charges Williams and Burdett faced.Kelly Uebinger, the government’s lead prosecutor in the case, called Burdett and Williams “tax cheats” multiple times in her closing argument. She said Burdett and Williams went to Timothy “year after year” and were telling Timothy how to complete their returns. Uebinger struggled throughout the trial after Africk ruled on hundreds of documents, saying they needed to be redacted, sometimes on the fly, due to jury confusion and prejudice.At one point, Uebinger was forced to excuse two witnesses back-to-back amid a barrage of objections from the defense following her questioning of Williams’ and Burdett’s financial planner.One witness Uebinger called to the stand was never sworn in after the document she was called to testify on was banned from evidence.Despite the challenges Uebinger faced, she urged the jury to review the evidence.”Don’t let them get away with it. They are trying to pull the wool over your eyes,” Uebinger said.Williams was represented by Billy Gibbens and Lisa Monet Wayne. Michael Magner represented Burdett.Wayne, Gibbens and Magner are all high-profile attorneys, but it was Wayne’s doggedness and Magner’s ostentatious style that stood out throughout the entirety of the trial.At no point did the defense dispute that Williams and Burdett owed taxes, or that their taxes were prepared improperly.Wayne said in her closing argument that none of the government’s thousands of pages of evidence included proof that Williams willfully committed fraud. She acknowledged that the way Williams’ firm handled its financial affairs may have been sloppy and negligent, but it fell short of what she considered the standard of intentional fraud.Magner’s approach was more extravagant, especially when it came to the questioning of Henry Timothy.His focus was on Timothy’s ability to prepare taxes. Magner referred to Timothy as a “psychopath'” and a “sociopath,” saying he only took one class and claimed he had an MBA.Williams and Burdett maintained that they followed the tax advice of Timothy, who they believed was a CPA, and relied on his judgment, according to Magner, who also questioned why prosecutors chose not to obtain Timothy’s phone and computer records. “It’s truly astounding that the government didn’t search his computer,” Magner said. “They chose not to do it because they put blinders on. They didn’t want to know because it would conflict with the tale they were spelling for you.”Prosecution ends with travel records The prosecution’s last witness was called to the stand Tuesday. Jill Zeringue, an FBI forensic accountant, reviewed travel expenses for Williams and Burdett from 2013 through 2017. Williams’ trips included Florida, Hawaii, Colorado, Panama and Italy. Burdett’s travel records showed multiple vacations to Disney World, a couple of Carnival Cruises and several other trips that turned out to be her husband’s work trips that he reimbursed.Zeringue testified that her chart did not break down which trips were personal or work-related, and she was not privy to the reasons behind most of the trips. Billy Gibbens, co-counsel for Williams, said his client went to Panama for work purposes, and the list of trips Zeringue provided included some he took as a member of the New Orleans City Council. Zeringue confirmed to Gibbens that if the trips were business-related, they should be deducted from her chart’s travel expense totals. Magner also criticized how the chart was compiled, offering the jury his own totals after excluding reimbursed trips from Burdett’s husband. Williams’ ex-wife testifiesWilliams’ ex-wife Bridget Barthelemy took the stand to testify about her knowledge of her ex-husband’s tax problems. She was married to Williams from 2008 to 2016. Barthelemy said they met in 2003 and separated in 2014. According to Barthelemy, she would come to Williams’ office on a regular basis to get cash from the safe. Later in the marriage, Williams would bring her the money after she said the safe was locked. Barthelemy testified there was always “a lot of cash” in the safe. She said the cash was mainly $100 bills and said she did not question the amount of money. She said she assumed it was payments from clients. According to Barthelemy, she had no knowledge of the protocols behind how the cash was obtained or accounted for in the safe. Barthelemy said she did not become aware of any tax issues until the IRS confronted her. She said she did not have regular access to money, and that Burdett took over not only the firm’s expenses but also her family’s personal expenses. The prosecution asked Barthelemy to confirm her husband’s signature on a tax form. She confirmed Williams’ signature on the form but said the signature for the spouse was not hers. According to Barthelemy, she found out Williams took out a life insurance policy on her after their divorce without her knowledge and made himself the beneficiary.IRS details unpaid taxes, improper personal expensesWilliams owed the federal government $281,837 in taxes from 2013 to 2017, according to the testimony of an IRS agent during the trial. Burdett’s tax debt totaled $129,433 between 2014 and 2017. Agents showed four cash payments to Williams’ law firm totaling $10,000 or more that did not have the required IRS forms accompanying them.The prosecution also had an IRS agent provide an analysis of Williams’ taxes paid and how false amounts were used to calculate returns. The chart included items that were not deductible, such as services from Williams’ mother, Janice Rogers, that the agent said were not rendered.Purchases from iTunes, gym memberships, yoga classes, clothing and life insurance policies were also listed, along with Mardi Gras stand rentals, food and entertainment. The IRS showed charitable and political contributions that were also claimed improperly on Williams’ business tax records.Other personal expenses included rental payments to Willliams’ current wife, Elizabeth Marcell.According to the IRS, Burdett filed for tax credits that she was ineligible to receive, including living under the poverty line and a child tax credit. The prosecution also said Burdett never paid taxes between the years of 2014 and 2017, but received refunds for those years. Burdett and her husband both claimed to be the head of their household on their tax returns, which is illegal.Tax preparer grilledTimothy and his shortcomings as a tax preparer became crucial elements for both the prosecution and the defense. Prosecutors hoped he would fortify their document trail, and the defense wanted to pin the accusations against them on his incompetence.Under defense questioning, Timothy admitted he did not provide draft tax returns to either Williams or Burdett and had no correspondence from either of them asking to lower their taxes.Timothy also said he falsified his own returns even after he quit working for Williams and Burdett. He admitted on the stand to lying to federal agents. Timothy admitted in grand jury testimony that he fraudulently prepared Williams’ and Burdett’s tax returns by improperly inflating their businesses’ expenses. He pled guilty to one federal count of making a false tax return to his own personal tax crimes, not in connection with Burdett and Williams or his other clients. The terms of his plea deal were not made public, but the prosecution did say that he was not allowed to prepare taxes anymore. The plea deal was heavily scrutinized by the defense, who asked him repeatedly why he testified. Timothy admitted on the stand he was hoping for no jail time in exchange for his testimony, but the prosecution maintained there were “no guarantees.” Timothy testified that he was not a CPA, and he retired from accounting and began tax preparing in 2010.

A jury has found Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams innocent of tax fraud charges.

Williams and Burdett were both found not guilty on all ten counts they faced for tax fraud.

Burdett was found guilty on four counts of filing false tax returns.

The case involved allegations of unpaid taxes from Williams’ private law firm, where Burdett was a lawyer and also was described as a business manager.

The verdict comes two years after allegations surfaced shortly after Williams launched his campaign for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office.

He maintained his innocence throughout, saying the federal prosecution’s case stemmed from political motives.

The trial was handed over to the jury after a week. Neither Williams nor Nicole Burdett was put on the stand to testify.

The federal government tried to prove that Williams and his law partner, Nicole Burdett, were willful and knowledgeable of the false amounts on their tax returns.

The defense claimed that the prosecution did not meet the burden of proof for any of the charges Williams and Burdett faced.

Kelly Uebinger, the government’s lead prosecutor in the case, called Burdett and Williams “tax cheats” multiple times in her closing argument.

She said Burdett and Williams went to Timothy “year after year” and were telling Timothy how to complete their returns.

Uebinger struggled throughout the trial after Africk ruled on hundreds of documents, saying they needed to be redacted, sometimes on the fly, due to jury confusion and prejudice.

At one point, Uebinger was forced to excuse two witnesses back-to-back amid a barrage of objections from the defense following her questioning of Williams’ and Burdett’s financial planner.

One witness Uebinger called to the stand was never sworn in after the document she was called to testify on was banned from evidence.

Despite the challenges Uebinger faced, she urged the jury to review the evidence.

“Don’t let them get away with it. They are trying to pull the wool over your eyes,” Uebinger said.

Williams was represented by Billy Gibbens and Lisa Monet Wayne. Michael Magner represented Burdett.

Wayne, Gibbens and Magner are all high-profile attorneys, but it was Wayne’s doggedness and Magner’s ostentatious style that stood out throughout the entirety of the trial.

At no point did the defense dispute that Williams and Burdett owed taxes, or that their taxes were prepared improperly.

Wayne said in her closing argument that none of the government’s thousands of pages of evidence included proof that Williams willfully committed fraud.

She acknowledged that the way Williams’ firm handled its financial affairs may have been sloppy and negligent, but it fell short of what she considered the standard of intentional fraud.

Magner’s approach was more extravagant, especially when it came to the questioning of Henry Timothy.

His focus was on Timothy’s ability to prepare taxes. Magner referred to Timothy as a “psychopath'” and a “sociopath,” saying he only took one class and claimed he had an MBA.

Williams and Burdett maintained that they followed the tax advice of Timothy, who they believed was a CPA, and relied on his judgment, according to Magner, who also questioned why prosecutors chose not to obtain Timothy’s phone and computer records.

“It’s truly astounding that the government didn’t search his computer,” Magner said. “They chose not to do it because they put blinders on. They didn’t want to know because it would conflict with the tale they were spelling for you.”

Prosecution ends with travel records

The prosecution’s last witness was called to the stand Tuesday.

Jill Zeringue, an FBI forensic accountant, reviewed travel expenses for Williams and Burdett from 2013 through 2017.

Williams’ trips included Florida, Hawaii, Colorado, Panama and Italy.

Burdett’s travel records showed multiple vacations to Disney World, a couple of Carnival Cruises and several other trips that turned out to be her husband’s work trips that he reimbursed.

Zeringue testified that her chart did not break down which trips were personal or work-related, and she was not privy to the reasons behind most of the trips.

Billy Gibbens, co-counsel for Williams, said his client went to Panama for work purposes, and the list of trips Zeringue provided included some he took as a member of the New Orleans City Council.

Zeringue confirmed to Gibbens that if the trips were business-related, they should be deducted from her chart’s travel expense totals.

Magner also criticized how the chart was compiled, offering the jury his own totals after excluding reimbursed trips from Burdett’s husband.

Williams’ ex-wife testifies

Williams’ ex-wife Bridget Barthelemy took the stand to testify about her knowledge of her ex-husband’s tax problems.

She was married to Williams from 2008 to 2016. Barthelemy said they met in 2003 and separated in 2014.

According to Barthelemy, she would come to Williams’ office on a regular basis to get cash from the safe. Later in the marriage, Williams would bring her the money after she said the safe was locked.

Barthelemy testified there was always “a lot of cash” in the safe.

She said the cash was mainly $100 bills and said she did not question the amount of money. She said she assumed it was payments from clients.

According to Barthelemy, she had no knowledge of the protocols behind how the cash was obtained or accounted for in the safe.

Barthelemy said she did not become aware of any tax issues until the IRS confronted her.

She said she did not have regular access to money, and that Burdett took over not only the firm’s expenses but also her family’s personal expenses.

The prosecution asked Barthelemy to confirm her husband’s signature on a tax form. She confirmed Williams’ signature on the form but said the signature for the spouse was not hers.

According to Barthelemy, she found out Williams took out a life insurance policy on her after their divorce without her knowledge and made himself the beneficiary.

IRS details unpaid taxes, improper personal expenses

Williams owed the federal government $281,837 in taxes from 2013 to 2017, according to the testimony of an IRS agent during the trial. Burdett’s tax debt totaled $129,433 between 2014 and 2017.

Agents showed four cash payments to Williams’ law firm totaling $10,000 or more that did not have the required IRS forms accompanying them.

The prosecution also had an IRS agent provide an analysis of Williams’ taxes paid and how false amounts were used to calculate returns.

The chart included items that were not deductible, such as services from Williams’ mother, Janice Rogers, that the agent said were not rendered.

Purchases from iTunes, gym memberships, yoga classes, clothing and life insurance policies were also listed, along with Mardi Gras stand rentals, food and entertainment.

The IRS showed charitable and political contributions that were also claimed improperly on Williams’ business tax records.

Other personal expenses included rental payments to Willliams’ current wife, Elizabeth Marcell.

According to the IRS, Burdett filed for tax credits that she was ineligible to receive, including living under the poverty line and a child tax credit.

The prosecution also said Burdett never paid taxes between the years of 2014 and 2017, but received refunds for those years.

Burdett and her husband both claimed to be the head of their household on their tax returns, which is illegal.

Tax preparer grilled

Timothy and his shortcomings as a tax preparer became crucial elements for both the prosecution and the defense.

Prosecutors hoped he would fortify their document trail, and the defense wanted to pin the accusations against them on his incompetence.

Under defense questioning, Timothy admitted he did not provide draft tax returns to either Williams or Burdett and had no correspondence from either of them asking to lower their taxes.

Timothy also said he falsified his own returns even after he quit working for Williams and Burdett.

He admitted on the stand to lying to federal agents.

Timothy admitted in grand jury testimony that he fraudulently prepared Williams’ and Burdett’s tax returns by improperly inflating their businesses’ expenses.

He pled guilty to one federal count of making a false tax return to his own personal tax crimes, not in connection with Burdett and Williams or his other clients.

The terms of his plea deal were not made public, but the prosecution did say that he was not allowed to prepare taxes anymore.

The plea deal was heavily scrutinized by the defense, who asked him repeatedly why he testified.

Timothy admitted on the stand he was hoping for no jail time in exchange for his testimony, but the prosecution maintained there were “no guarantees.”

Timothy testified that he was not a CPA, and he retired from accounting and began tax preparing in 2010.

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