Attorneys for former New Roads Mayor T.A. “Tommy” Nelson may argue at his federal corruption trial that he was improperly entrapped by two undercover FBI agents and an undercover operative working for the bureau, they wrote Monday.
Defense attorneys Michael A. Fiser, of Baton Rouge, and Page A. Pate, of Atlanta, Ga., filed that notice with Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson shortly before jury selection began at the federal courthouse in Baton Rouge.
Nelson is accused of racketeering, wire fraud, using telephones in a racketeering scheme and making false statements to the FBI.
He has pleaded innocent to all charges.
Federal prosecutors announced last summer that FBI employees had posed as corrupt businessmen and met with officials of several municipalities in the Baton Rouge area.
The FBI agents and operative offered bribes in return for officials’ help in promoting what turned out to be a fictitious garbage can-cleaning service, known as Cifer 5000.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Corey R. Amundson, M. Patricia Jones and Michael J. Jefferson told Tyson in a pre-trial filing that elements of entrapment would have to be proved by the defense in order to scuttle the case against Nelson.
“If defendant fails to make a showing of either inducement (by the FBI) or lack of predisposition (to commit a crime), the issue should not be presented to the jury,” the prosecutors wrote.
Pate and Fiser argued that when government investigators design a criminal plan, government “stealth and strategy become as objectionable police methods as the coerced confession and the unlawful search.”
Jefferson, Jones and Amundson wrote that a defendant’s willing participation in a crime is sufficient proof of a predisposition toward criminal activity. They alleged Nelson “took four cash bribes totaling $20,000.”
Nelson was charged as a result of the same FBI sting operation that resulted in the February trial of former White Castle Mayor Maurice Brown and current White Castle Police Chief Mario Brown.
The jury in that case convicted Maurice Brown on felony charges March 3, but acquitted his younger brother, Mario Brown, on all counts.
The sting operation, dubbed Operation Blighted Officials, resulted in a conviction against former Port Allen City Councilman Johnny L. Johnson Sr., who pleaded guilty to racketeering and bribery charges. Johnson has not yet been sentenced.
Port Allen Mayor Derek Lewis and Port Allen Police Chief Fred Smith are scheduled for trial July 25 in the court of U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson.
St. Gabriel Mayor George L. Grace is scheduled for trial Jan. 23 in Tyson’s court.
Jury selection in Nelson’s trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning. Tyson said Monday the trial could last three weeks.