Continuing to assert that the prosecution’s case is weak and vague, lawyers for Walter and Steven Reed are asking for more details about the federal government’s corruption case against their clients than were provided in last month’s 18-count indictment of the former longtime district attorney of St. Tammany and Washington parishes and his 42-year-old son.
In a motion for a “bill of particulars” filed Wednesday, the defense asks that prosecutors be required to produce answers to a long list of questions, ranging from how much Walter Reed allegedly overpaid his son for work on campaign events to the names of two businesses that allegedly overcharged for their services as part of a scheme to kick money back to the younger Reed.
A hearing on the motion will be held June 10 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson Jr., in whose courtroom the pair was arraigned earlier this month.
Lawyer Richard Simmons, who is representing Walter Reed, had indicated previously he planned to take such a step.
Seeking a bill of particulars is fairly routine in such cases, according to Matt Coman, a former federal prosecutor who is now in private practice with Sher Garner. A bill of particulars is not intended to be used as a discovery tool or to force the government to broadcast its case, Coman said, although he said there is “no harm in asking.”
Instead, a bill of particulars is designed to test the sufficiency of a case. But while motions seeking such a bill are often filed, he said, they are seldom granted by courts in this district.
Even so, the filing does offer a window into the defense’s theory of the case, Coman said, and may serve as an attempt to inform the court — and the public — of how Reed’s team views it.
In its memorandum supporting the motion, the defense argues that federal authorities are overstepping their bounds in trying to use federal law to prosecute state officials by going after state campaign violations in multiple instances. With the heading “Here they come again,” the defense contends that Reed’s case is another example of such an overreach.
“Obviously, defendants will be filing a motion to dismiss based upon continued federal encroachment into enforcement of state campaign law which provides its own remedies for violations,” the memorandum says.
The defense refers to the indictment as “primarily a tax case” that alleges Reed underreported income but at the same time gives little specific information about what Reed allegedly left out on his tax returns.
“No other particulars are given as to the amount of taxes he paid, the amount of taxes he would owe, even the total amount of income that was ‘unreported,’ ” the memorandum says.
Reed needs that information to defend the charges and avoid a trial by surprise, his lawyers argue, citing case law to support the proposition that a bill of particulars should be “liberally treated” in tax cases.
Walter Reed, who ended a 30-year political career earlier this year, retiring as a federal probe gained steam, stands accused of conspiring with Steven Reed to divert money from his campaign fund to his son by overpaying him for work that was purported to be for his re-election efforts. The indictment also says that Walter Reed used campaign money for personal expenses and listed less income than he actually earned on tax returns from 2009 through 2012.
The case against Walter Reed includes a separate vector that does not involve taxes or his son. The former DA is accused of multiple counts of fraud for helping himself to the annual proceeds of a contract to provide legal services to the public St. Tammany Parish Hospital, money that the indictment alleges should have instead gone to the District Attorney’s Office.
The motion filed Wednesday also touches on that aspect of the case — seeking specifics such as how many meetings of the hospital’s board Reed attended — but mostly takes aim at the alleged conspiracy to convert Reed’s campaign finance account to personal use.
It asks the government to provide the exact amount by which Walter Reed allegedly overpaid his son for producing an anti-drug digital video, providing production services at a housewarming party and providing catering or bar services at a large campaign event at the Castine Center that featured the band America.
The filing also asks the prosecution to state the true value of those services, and even asks prosecutors to identify “the number of persons who attended the event, including those who may have not purchased tickets.”
But while many of the questions deal with minutiae, the motion also poses broader questions about the prosecution’s case, asking, for example, who the government claims is the victim of the alleged scheme to defraud.
Reed’s legal team has mounted an aggressive defense. Simmons called a news conference immediately after the indictment last month, for example, at which he argued that the former district attorney is not accused of selling his office and underscored that the campaign money Reed allegedly misspent had been given to him by willing donors.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.