Former New Roads Mayor T.A. “Tommy” Nelson was portrayed by prosecution witnesses and recordings Thursday as a public official who solicited and accepted bribes, bragged about money received, and lied that he was a practicing attorney.
Nelson lost a bid for re-election last year after he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Baton Rouge on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, using telephones in aid of racketeering and lying to FBI agents.
On Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Patricia Jones introduced a trial document in which Nelson admitted committing some of those acts.
Nelson, however, later decided to plead innocent to all charges.
Vanessa Williams, executive director of the National Conference of Black Mayors, testified that Nelson told her in June 2010 that the $20,000 he accepted from officials of a garbage can cleaning service was a retainer for his services as a lawyer.
She said Nelson denied taking bribes.
Williams said Nelson told her he was falsely accused and needed help from the NCBM. She added, however, that the conference’s Board of Directors told her not to get involved in the dispute.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Jefferson then read a stipulation signed by prosecutors and Nelson.
That stipulation states that Nelson “has never been licensed to practice law in the state of Louisiana.”
Jefferson previously told the jury of five women and seven men that Nelson holds a law degree.
But the prosecutor said Nelson never obtained his Louisiana law license.
Nelson is accused of accepting more than $22,000 in cash, tickets to professional sports events and free hotel stays.
And FBI Special Agent Tonja Sablatura testified earlier that Nelson confessed to those crimes immediately after he was observed accepting $5,000 in cash from an FBI undercover operative.
That man was posing as a corrupt executive of the Cifer 5000 garbage can cleaning service.
Cifer 5000 was a fictional company used in an FBI sting that resulted in indictments against Nelson and six other municipal officials in the Baton Rouge area.
FBI undercover operative William Myles testified Thursday that he met Nelson in Cabela’s parking lot in Gonzales in May 2010.
Myles said the pair sat in his wired car as FBI agents made video and audio recordings of their conversation.
Myles said he handed an envelope containing $5,000 in cash to Nelson.
He testified that the money was part of $20,000 that Nelson demanded in return for Nelson’s pledge to steer a municipal contract to Cifer 5000 and help the firm obtain millions of dollars in federal grants and infusions of cash from investors.
In the recorded meeting, Nelson is seen handing a large brown envelope to Myles, who then gives Nelson the envelope filled with cash.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey R. Amundson asked what was in Nelson’s brown envelope.
Myles replied it was a letter Nelson signed as mayor of New Roads. It was addressed to Lisa P. Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Myles testified that Nelson believed the letter would help Cifer 5000 obtain up to $4 million in federal grants.
Myles added that Nelson also had been promised 10 percent of all revenue he produced for Cifer 5000.
In earlier recorded telephone conversations, Nelson can be heard demanding “ten” from Myles for his re-election campaign.
Myles testified that the “ten” was actually $10,000.
During those recorded conversations, Nelson tells Myles that he has been given larger contributions by people with other businesses that received lucrative contracts with New Roads.
“They’re just a firm that takes care of people that take care of them,” Nelson said in reference to one of those businesses.
“Need some change and need some Cifer trucks on the ground,” Nelson said in another recorded conversation.
Myles said that was another demand for $10,000 and a reference to the fact that Nelson expected a 10 percent fee from all revenue Cifer 5000 would receive in Pointe Coupee Parish.
Nelson also was recorded as he told Myles he could put him in touch with a particular congressional staffer.
“Access costs, you know,” Nelson told Myles. “I know you’re a businessman.”
Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson announced at the end of the day that the trial will resume Monday at 9 a.m.