NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard and former Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson have pleaded not guilty in connection with new bribery charges filed last week.
Broussard and Wilkinson appeared Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy in an arraignment in New Orleans federal court that lasted about 25 minutes.
The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/M9Cgog ) the hearing focused in part on whether Broussard’s prostate cancer would delay an Oct. 1 trial date. Broussard told the judge he has had 43 radiation treatments and also has skin cancer, evidenced by the bandage adhered to his right upper cheek.
“I feel very good,” Broussard told reporters after the hearing. “I feel very blessed the cancer was able to be detected at an early stage.”
Last week, Broussard and Wilkinson were charged in a second superseding indictment tied to allegations that Broussard accepted bribes from businessman Bill Mack in exchange for steering work to Mack’s firm.
The new indictment claims Mack, president and owner of First Communications Company, paid Broussard roughly $66,000 during his time in office in exchange for steering about $40,000 in parish work to Mack’s company. Broussard also allegedly tried to steer work with private vendors to Mack’s company.
Wilkinson is charged with conspiracy to commit bribery. Prosecutors allege he reviewed and negotiated contracts between Mack and the parish that resulted from the alleged bribery scheme. He also is accused of knowingly allowing Broussard’s friends and political associates to be employed in the parish attorney’s office — people he called “deadheads.”
Broussard and Wilkinson were charged last year with conspiring to fraudulently award a lucrative parish job to Broussard’s ex-wife, Karen Parker. She pleaded guilty in January to misprision of a felony, or concealing a crime, and agreed to cooperate with federal authorities.
Karen Parker was hired as a Jefferson Parish paralegal supervisor and collected more than $323,000 in taxpayer funds even though she wasn’t qualified and wasn’t performing its duties, prosecutors say.
Broussard’s attorney, Robert Jenkins, told the court Friday that he expects to file a motion seeking a change of venue, presumably because of pretrial publicity.
In addition, attorney Ralph Whalen, who represents Wilkinson, said he would seek to have the cases separated.
Stacy told the lawyers that those and any other requests must be filed by Wednesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Klebba said Broussard, if convicted, faces up to 485 years in prison while Wilkinson faces up to 435 years.
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com