More than three years after she was convicted in a corruption scheme, former New Orleans City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt has reported to a minimum-security federal prison camp in Florida to begin serving a four-year sentence.
Gill Pratt, 60, was assigned to the Bureau of Prisons facility in Marianna, Florida, according to her lawyer, Mike Fawer. Marianna is between Pensacola and Tallahassee, about a four-hour drive from New Orleans.
Gill Pratt was convicted of racketeering in July 2011 for her role in a scheme to steer taxpayer money to a string of charities controlled by the political organization headed by former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, and then to raid the nonprofits’ bank accounts. The scam also netted guilty pleas from two of the ex-congressman’s siblings — Brenda Foster and 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson — and a niece, Angela Coleman.
The verdict was the last in a startling string of defeats for Jefferson’s once-formidable political machine. By the time Gill Pratt was convicted, her former longtime boyfriend, Mose Jefferson — the congressman’s elder brother and chief political strategist — had been convicted in a bribery scheme. And the congressman in 2012 began serving a 13-year sentence for his 2009 conviction on 11 corruption-related charges.
Betty Jefferson, Mose Jefferson and Brenda Foster have all died since they were convicted.
Gill Pratt was initially sentenced to seven years in prison. She had managed to stay out of jail since 2011 while Fawer sought relief for her on a variety of grounds.
Among other claims, Fawer argued that Gill Pratt deserved a new trial because former federal prosecutor Sal Perricone, using a pseudonym, had posted disparaging comments about her underneath stories on nola.com during her trial.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle finally rejected that bid after he interviewed two jurors who said they had read news on the website but were not prejudiced by Perricone’s remarks. Lemelle ordered Gill Pratt to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on Sept. 2 to begin serving a 50-month sentence.
Lemelle reduced her sentence in May at the direction of a federal appeals court, which found that he had miscalculated when he applied federal sentencing guidelines and originally ordered Gill to serve 87 months behind bars.
The facility where she reported Tuesday holds about 1,500 inmates, both men and women, according to the Bureau of Prisons website. The majority are in a medium-security prison, while about 267 are in an adjacent minimum-security camp. As a white-collar criminal serving a relatively short stint, that’s where Gill Pratt will be held.