The Times Picayune & James Gill Chime in Again on the Perdigao Saga

The explosive allegations leveled by Jamie Perdigao are still making the news in New Orleans. First some more local political background and some insight from Loyola Law Professor Dane Ciolino on the ethics surrounding the property transactions involving Robert Guidry’s lawyer Ralph Capitelli.

It remains to be seen whether the wide-ranging claims of corruption made by former Adams and Reese partner and accused thief Jamie Perdigao in a couple of recent court filings have any merit, or if they are, as some of Perdigao’s targets say, the ravings of a desperate man.

But some of his tales could find their way into political campaigns this fall — in particular, his allegations about defense lawyer Ralph Capitelli, who is running for district attorney, and Traffic Court Judge Ronald Sholes, a candidate for 4th Circuit Court of Appeal.

In his suit, Perdigao accurately describes how Capitelli bought a condo in partnership with a federal prosecutor. The question is whether the conclusion Perdigao draws from it is accurate.

In an April federal court motion, Perdigao asked a judge to order U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office to recuse itself from his criminal case. His claim is that the office has been uninterested in Perdigao’s efforts to cooperate, in part because Perdigao’s leads implicate Bobby Guidry, the government’s star witness in the racketeering case against former Gov. Edwin Edwards, and a prosecutor in Letten’s office.

Perdigao claims that Guidry was bribing the prosecutor, Fred Harper, to secure lenient treatment for himself at the end of the trial.

To bolster his allegation, Perdigao points out that Harper and Capitelli, who was and remains Guidry’s attorney, bought a condo on the Alabama Gulf Coast together “while the Edwards case was still in litigation.”

Capitelli acknowledges the purchase, which is no secret as it is easily found in public records. But he says there’s nothing improper about it. At the time of the 2005 transaction, Guidry had already pleaded guilty and served his sentence. While it is true that the Edwards case was “still in litigation,” that only was because his attorneys had not exhausted all his appeals.

Capitelli said he and Harper have been friends for decades since both were young prosecutors under former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick.

There’s no rule against the joint purchase, according to Dane Ciolino, a Loyola Law School professor. It would not have mattered if Harper and Capitelli had bought the condo together while Guidry’s case was before the court, he said.

“There’s no per se ethical problem with two lawyers who are professional adversaries being personal friends or business partners,” Ciolino said. “Only if such a personal or business relationship somehow ‘materially impairs’ a lawyer’s loyalty to his client does the personal relationship present a conflict.”

In a civil racketeering suit Perdigao filed this week, he claims that that since Adams and Reese hired Sholes in 1999, the firm has used the judge largely to “fix” traffic tickets and to cultivate the firm’s relationships with other members of the bench. The complaint alleges that Sholes helped to dismiss any tickets received by members of the firm as well as its clients.

Sholes said this week that he hadn’t read the suit, but he denied the assertions it makes.

James Gill also wrote a column for today’s T-P. Here is an excerpt:

Perdigao alleged that Guidry, his client at Adams and Reese, bought himself a break by giving $1 million to U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, long-time mentor to then-U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan.

Whether that is true or not, Guidry sure did well for himself, when Jordan agreed to a deal that gave him the minor inconvenience of five months in a half-way house. More importantly to Guidry, according to Perdigao, the deal allowed him to keep all but $3.5 million of the $100 million he made after bribing Edwards for his license.

Perdigao now adds some juicy details to the bribery story, relating how he saw Guidry fill a bag with cash that had been hidden under some tiles in the bathroom of his Harvey penthouse.

Guidry, according to Perdigao’s complaint, would drop off bags of moolah under the back steps at Jefferson’s house.

Perdigao had already noted that, had prosecutors alerted Edwards’ attorneys to his allegations, Guidry’s testimony could have been discredited on appeal. In his civil complaint, Perdigao adds that, while the riverboat case was pending, Guidry was also under investigation for income tax violations. His problems went away when he agreed to testify that the large amounts of cash he withdrew from the bank were “extortion payments to Edwin Edwards rather than monies related to his gambling.”

If it is true that Edwards got a bum rap, Perdigao knows what that feels like too. He claims in his civil complaint that the $30 million was the fruits of his independent “entrepreneurial activities” undertaken with the approval of his superiors at Adams and Reese — until he started raising principled objections to their various illegal activities.

It’s all a rattling good yarn. But there is no need for Edwards to pack his bags just yet.

7 thoughts on “The Times Picayune & James Gill Chime in Again on the Perdigao Saga”

  1. Your post isn’t completely clear about how the traffic court judge was bought off. Is he a judge, or does he work for “Adams and Reese”? Or maybe both?

    I don’t know much about cases down there, but I don’t think anyone would bother buying off a judge in traffic court. The cases are typically minor, and lawyers are usually able to get good results for their clients without any corruption. Would people really risk their law licenses and jobs for something that small?

  2. The judge worked for Adams & Reese and was not bought off. Rather the allegations center around how he used the position to benefit the firm by fixing tickets outside the system.

    For all the gory details on the traffic court allegations go to the civil RICO complaint here and begin reading from the bottom of page 15.

    sop

  3. You guys are like white on rice. Great job. Perdigao’s allegations against Wooley, and the passing mention of George Dale, have not gotten much media play yet. One would think that these allegations involving Allstate would be relatively easy to prove, or dispel, simply by the U.S. Attorney obtaining A&R’s and/or Allstate’s digital data relative to communications, billing, etc.

    Remember, our last 3 Commissioners of Insurance are convicted felons, although Jim Brown’s was specious. Ironically, Brown was convicted of lying to the FBI in the Edwards investigation, even though the FBI agent had destroyed the notes from the interviews. There also was a funny story some years ago, I think pre-Katrina, about Robert Wooley having to return a customized Harley-Davidson, Ford truck, which was purchased, or leased, with taxpayer funds.

    Keep digging on this. Lots of my colleagues are watching you guys now. Incidentally, I tipped Rossmiller to the story soon after the Complaint was filed, but I don’t think he has written on it yet. Maybe criminal activities and/or allegations of criminal wrongdoing are only worthy of comment when it involves plaintiffs lawyers.

  4. Maybe criminal activities and/or allegations of criminal wrongdoing are only worthy of comment when it involves plaintiffs lawyers.

    You noticed the stark contrast to the media explosion following Scruggs indictment, too, I take it. Amazing – or as some would say, “it ain’t natural”.

    btw, I pulled the 15 pages specific to insurance/Wooley into a separate document that I’m going to try and link here – if I’m not successful, check under Legal on our left sidebar.

    It does seem the allegations about Allstate would be relatively simple to check out. Allegedly, the focus on Allstate was because State Farm already was a client. Does not that put Mr. Dale’s settlement with State Farm under a cloud? If so, do you think that cloud extends further?

    Perdigao’s attorney says he has evidence to back up his claims – and there have been nothing but positive comments about the attorney.

    Sop’s background knowledge has been invaluable and I know he’ll be pleased to know you think he’s done a great job finding and putting pieces of the puzzle together.

  5. Rick thanks for the encouragement. Jim Brown got a raw deal IMHO. Robert Wooley OTOH strikes me as more cut from the Sherman Bernard and Doug Green cloth. I’ve found where he and Lecky King share a commonality and we’ll have more on that soon.

    Perhaps Rossmiller got some religion and stopped blogging about his firm’s clients. Somehow I think your take is more likely on why he hasn’t said a word about this. I do know this, our traffic has more than doubled last week and our May traffic is up significantly from April. We are 20x what our our blogger site used to attract on average. Thank you for both the steer and recommending us.

    I’m trying to hunt up more information on the Citizens scandal as there may be a connection. Any steers you or any of our Louisiana based readers can give us are always much appreciated.

    sop

  6. This must have a lot more legs than anyone at A&R wants to admit to. otherwise why would the entire tax division out of the blue leave Adams & Reese in Nashville on Friday? Is this the beginning of the end for this law firm?

  7. The entire tax division? Keep us posted.

    UPDATE: http://www.nashvillepost.com/news/2008/5/30/adams_and_reese_attorneys_strike_out
    The search script reads Formation of boutique unwinds 2001 deal; firm will open next to Adams and Reese July 1 – without a subscription, the article costs $7.50, so, Bryce, for now we’ll go with your report and assume the three attorneys in the story “Adams and Reese attorneys strike out” and any staff leaving with them represent the entire tax division – and wait and see if there’s a connection.

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