Tuesday, 26 July 2011 18:05

New Orleans Corruption Takes Pratfall In Rene Gill Pratt Case

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Jeff CrouereIn the end it did not take long for a jury to come to the unanimous conclusion that former New Orleans councilwoman and state legislator Renee Gill Pratt was guilty of participating in a criminal venture to loot local charities.

The guilty verdict on the racketeering charge was reached after only two hours of deliberation, which clearly shows the strength of the prosecution’s case.

The jury also ordered Gill Pratt to pay $1.1 million in restitution. This was money stolen from scam charitable organizations based in the Central City area of New Orleans.

 Gill Pratt was a key player in the criminal enterprise of the family of former U.S. Congressman Bill Jefferson. As the girlfriend of the brother of Bill Jefferson, Mose Jefferson, and a legislator who provided a pipeline of taxpayer funds for the so-called charities, Gill Pratt was at least partially responsible for the outrageous theft which occurred. The whole trial exposed the pathetic legislative oversight process in Baton Rouge. Even though the charities were bogus, state tax dollars continue to flow into the Jefferson family scams.  

In total, prosecutors claim that $1.4 million was stolen by Gill Pratt and her Jefferson family cronies, such as former Orleans Parish Assessor Betty Jefferson and her daughter Angela Coleman. All three were charged in the charity scam operation. In total, six members of the Jefferson family have been convicted. The sentencing for Gill Pratt will be held in October, while Betty Jefferson and Angela will be sentenced on August 31.  

The final act in this tragedy will take place when the kingpin of this enterprise, former Congressman Jefferson is hauled away to federal prison. Jefferson was convicted, but has been able to remain free while his appeal works its way through the long and tortured justice system.

After a curious jury decision in the Casey Anthony case and a mistrial in the first Gill Pratt trial, it is reassuring to see a jury quickly conduct its business and render the right decision.

Politicians in Louisiana should not be able to get away with theft and corruption. The verdict is an unmistakable and refreshing reminder that Gill Pratt and other local politicians are not above the law.

This jury decision sends a clear message to all Louisiana politicians that the U.S. Attorney’s office is watching and will prosecute them vigorously if laws are broken.

The U.S. Attorney’s office, under the superb direction of Jim Letten is cleaning up the political system in southeast Louisiana and letting the rest of the country know that corruption is no longer welcome in the Big Easy. For our politicians, the destructive attitude of laissez les bon temps rouler is finally and thankfully coming to an end.

Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m.weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].

Renee Gill Pratt's foretold conviction: An editorial

Renee Gill Pratt guilty verdict may mark the end of the Jefferson political machine

Ex-New Orleans politician with ties to convicted La congressman found guilty of racketeering

Ex-New Orleans politician guilty of racketeering

Renee Gill Pratt reacts to her guilty verdict in federal court: video

Renee Gill Pratt ordered to pay back $1.1 million in stolen funds

Renee Gill Pratt guilty of conspiring to loot Central City charities


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