Judge asked to delay ill Mose Jefferson's trial
A longtime New Orleans political operativewho is gravely ill with cancer asked a federal judge Wednesday topostpone his trial on charges he conspired to steal hundreds ofthousands of dollars in government grant money earmarked forcharitable and educational programs.

Doctors for Mose Jefferson, a brother of former CongressmanWilliam Jefferson, estimate he may have no more than six months tolive.

Dr. Brian Boulmay, who has treated Mose Jefferson at hospital in New Orleans, testified Wednesday that it would bedifficult but not impossible for Jefferson to withstand a trial ifhis condition improves. Boulmay said Jefferson's cancer isincurable and has left him in a "tenuous state."

"He could have some improvement in his functional status,"Boulmay said, "or he could quickly get sicker."

Jefferson is hospitalized and was too sick to attend Wednesday'shearing, said his lawyer, Arthur Lemann. U.S. District Judge IvanLemelle said he wants to visit Jefferson in the hospital before herules.

A trial for Jefferson and former state Rep. Renee Gill Pratt onracketeering conspiracy charges is scheduled to start Jan. 31 andlast three to four weeks.

Lemelle said Gill Pratt's trial will proceed on that date evenif he postpones trial for Jefferson.

Jefferson already is serving a 10-year prison sentence for hisconvictions in a separate bribery case.

Lemann said it is inhumane for U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's officeto insist on trying Jefferson in his condition.

"What is the point in putting this man through this torture ofa trial?" he asked.

Michael Fawer, Gill Pratt's attorney, claimed prosecutors areopposed to delaying the trial for Jefferson because they want aconvicted felon sitting next to his client.

"The government is showing a total disregard for the value ofhuman life," Fawer said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Friel said prosecutors aresympathetic but believe Jefferson is healthy enough to stand trial.

Dr. Benjamin Barker, an LSU hospital physician providing dailytreatment to Jefferson, said his patient's breathing has improvedbut Jefferson can only sit up in bed for short periods of time, istaking painkillers and would probably need to use a wheelchair incourt.

"He would not be at his 100 percent. That I know for sure,"Barker testified Wednesday over the telephone.

Jefferson's sister, former New Orleans tax assessor BettyJefferson, and her daughter, Angela Coleman, pleaded guilty in thecase in February 2010 and are cooperating with prosecutors.

William Jefferson, who was voted out of office in 2009, wasconvicted last year of corruption charges in an unrelated case inVirginia. He was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison, butremains free while his appeal is pending.

Boulmay told the he refused to declare Mose Jefferson unfitfor trial when he discussed his medical condition with relatives,including William Jefferson.

"Boulmay knew of Bill's legal problems before he met him," theFBI said in a report filed in the case. "Boulmay felt Bill wastrying to 'game him' by trying to suggest that Boulmay coulddetermine Jefferson was not fit to stand trial."