Timing of indictment questioned

In a direct message via e-mail to his supporters, New Orleans at-Large City Councilman Jason Williams doubled down on his plans to challenge incumbent DA Leon Cannizzaro for the seat.

“We must not be intimidated nor deterred,” Williams said in his statement. “I am even more resolute in my campaign, and together we will defeat Leon Cannizzaro to dismantle the unfair criminal justice system in this city. So, I want you to know directly from me that I am not backing down. I will continue to serve the people of New Orleans as a City Councilman and I will be the very first person to qualify for district attorney.”

Late Friday, June 26, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana announced an 11-count indictment against Williams and another attorney at his law firm, Jason Rogers Williams and Associates, on charges of tax fraud.

Williams denies the charges, maintaining that any inconsistencies with tax returns were done on the advice if his tax preparer.

Meanwhile, the timing of the indictment has raised questions. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has policy of not indicting elected officials or political candidates during an election season as to not influence the outcome.

The timing is so conspicuous that it even spurred attorney Kenneth Polite, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, to tweet a partial quote attributed George J. Terwilliger III, who served as deputy Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush, to reiterate the long-standing policy.

While Williams’ attorney issued a statement following the indictment, the e-mailed statement sent Sunday, July 28 was Williams first statement Friday.

Williams statement read, in part:

“I’m sure that you’re aware of Friday’s announcement of charges against me for relying upon the advice of my tax preparer. As my lawyer shared, these allegations are not true and I am eager to have my day in court.

In the meantime, I must be very straightforward with you. I have boldly proclaimed war with an unfair and broken criminal legal system. And I knew that would come with risks.

For decades, I have served as a successful criminal defense attorney to ensure that those accused get a fair shake in a system stacked against them.
On the City Council, I have led the fight against Leon Cannizzaro and his repressive and illegal prosecutorial tactics that too often deny justice for all.
And for almost two years, I have made it clear that I will run for district attorney to radically reform the criminal justice system in this city so that every person can get a fair shake.”

Williams’ statement also continued by lodge direct allegations against Cannizzaro, including his handling of sexual assault cases as well as his office’s past use of fake subpeonas to compel crime victims and witnesses to testify.

“Remember, Leon Cannizzaro and his inner circle used their power and influence to interfere with our last mayoral election and were able to encourage an investigation by the attorney general.

“Now he and that same inner circle have used that same power and influence to come after me in an effort to scare me away from running for district attorney and interfere with yet another election,” Williams said in his statement. “What Leon doesn’t realize is that this campaign to ensure a leading progressive prosecutor at Tulane and Broad is bigger than me.”

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