You wouldn’t want to take Jamie Perdigao’s word for anything, but the incendiary motion he has filed in federal court has clearly touched a nerve.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, after failing to have Perdigao’s motion placed under seal, responded not with a measured rebuttal but with incoherent fury. Prosecutors argue Perdigao’s motion, in which he accuses them of covering up all manner of skulduggery, is “a shell of a vehicle giving expression to his unsupported vitriol.” And that’s one of the more felicitous phrases they employ in contending Perdigao’s allegations do not merit a hearing.
Perhaps such a hearing would be an embarrassment for them, but it would be a blast for everyone else, not least former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who stands to get out of prison if he was, as Perdigao alleges, the victim of prosecutorial dirty tricks.
Perdigao’s claim that Congressman William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, took a bribe, while lacking the appeal of novelty, may deserve an airing too.
Perdigao’s uncorroborated word won’t count for much. He was arrested in 2004 when $30 million turned up missing at Adams and Reece, the law firm where he was a partner. Although Perdigao has not been convicted, the presumption of innocence in his case is more than usually theoretical.
Perdigao was expected to plead guilty after paying back the $30 million and singing to the feds for a couple of years, but his plea deal fell through, and he was indicted on 59 counts last year. That is presumably why he filed his motion, asking that the entire local U.S. Attorney’s Office be recused from his case for failing to act on the information he provided and thus denying him the credit he would otherwise have received at sentencing.
Perdigao certainly has a motive to lie, since any delay in proceedings will be welcome when prison awaits. On the other hand, his claims may merit some consideration, since he saw what was going on from the inside when Edwards went on trial for shaking down applicants for riverboat gambling licenses. Perdigao was civil attorney for one of those who bribed Edwards, Bobby Guidry.
The abiding mystery of the Edwards trial is how come Guidry got such a sweet deal. After copping a plea and becoming the star government witness, Guidry was certainly entitled to a break, although five months in a half-way house seemed remarkably lenient after all the sleazy deals he admitted.
But that was not the biggest favor the feds did for Guidry. The license he secured for the Treasure Chest in Kenner eventually put more than $100 million in Guidry’s pocket. He was ordered to make restitution of just $3.5 million.
The explanation Perdigao now offers for that soft sentence is Guidry, finding himself in trouble for bribing one public official, resolved that the best way to mitigate the damage was to bribe another.
So he paid Jefferson $1 million to ensure his old protégé, then-U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan, would go easy. Guidry, who kept large wads of cash in his freezer, could not have known at the time that Jefferson had similar habits, and Perdigao’s motion is silent on what happened to the alleged bribe after it was handed over. For good measure, Perdigao says, Guidry lent Jefferson’s brother Mose $300,000 around the same time.
Although Perdigao provided this information to federal prosecutors, they failed to alert Edwards’ attorneys, who could have used it to discredit Guidry’s testimony on appeal, the motion suggests.
Since both Jeffersons are awaiting trial on bribery charges in unrelated cases, and since Guidry’s soft sentence has been the cause of so much bafflement, Perdigao’s allegations are hardly implausible. But that may just mean he has chosen his lies shrewdly.
Perdigao’s attorney, William Wessel, says he can prove what the motion says. If, as Perdigao claims, Adams and Reese drew up the documents for Guidry’s loan to Mose Jefferson, they will presumably be available at an evidentiary hearing. But hard evidence of his more sensational allegations may be hard to find.
The local feds say all Perdigao’s allegations were forwarded to the Justice Department in Washington.
They write that the purpose of their response is “to indicate tersely” that Perdigao does not speak the truth. Then they go on to suggest he has “littered his own admissions of considerable fraudulent criminal activity in his practice as a lawyer with false and unsupported impugns of others,” that his “mendacity” is “disprovable,” and that he is guilty of “perfidy,” “vacillations and lies.”
That’s just a tiny sample. Lord help us when the government is not in the mood to be terse.
James Gill is a staff writer with the Times Picayune. He can be reached at (504) 826-3318 or at email@example.com.