Renée Gill Pratt

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Renée Gill Pratt (born 1954) is a local politician from New Orleans. She was also Director of the Center for Student Retention and Success in Southern University at New Orleans.[1] On 2011 February 24, racketeering charges against her resulted in a hung jury.[2]

Gill Pratt in 2009

Political career[edit]

A Democrat, Gill Pratt began her tenure in the Louisiana House of Representatives for District 91 in 1991, when she was elected to succeed Diana Bajoie, who was the victor in a special election for the District 5 seat in the Louisiana State Senate. Gill Pratt served in the House until 2002, when she was succeeded by Rosalind Peychaud.[3] Gill Pratt served on the New Orleans city council for District B from 2002 to 2006.

District B includes the Central Business District, the Garden District, Central City, the Irish Channel, the Lower Garden District and the Touro neighborhood. District 91 covers the precincts located on the southwest side of District B, roughly corresponding to the Irish Channel and the Touro neighborhood.

Gill Pratt lost her bid for re-election in 2006, against Stacy Head, another Democrat and a New Orleans attorney. Gill Pratt possibly faced a backlash related to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Mayor Ray Nagin won re-election only after facing a much tougher challenge than expected before the hurricane, and half of the council members who ran again were defeated.

Controversies[edit]

In the weeks following her defeat, Gill Pratt faced criticism for driving a $28,266 Dodge Durango that she had donated to a nonprofit organization before she left office. The organization subsequently hired her and assigned her to the vehicle.

She also was blamed for renting office space from a company formed by Mose Jefferson, the brother of convicted felon U.S. Representative William J. Jefferson, at the rate of $1,800 a month, for her satellite council office.

In May 2009 Gill Pratt—along with Mose Jefferson, Betty Jefferson, and Angela Coleman (Betty Jefferson's daughter)—was indicted on federal racketeering charges.[4] Mose Jefferson was also facing a separate trial for bribing Orleans Parish School Board president Ellenese Brooks-Simms.[5] The racketeering indictment contained a relationship to the bribery case in that part of the alleged racketeering involved Gill Pratt's supposed obtaining of $300,000 for a couple of private schools so that they could buy the software which Mose Jefferson, with Ellenese Brooks-Simms' help, also sold to the public schools; according to the indictment, Mose Jefferson's commission on the sales to the private schools was $30,000, of which Gill Pratt pocketed $3500.[6] Within a week of the indictment of Gill Pratt, John Pope reported in the Times-Picayune that Gill Pratt was being appointed to a SUNO position which carries no additional pay.[7] In the same article Pope described Mose Jefferson as "Gill Pratt's longtime companion"—a situation noted as being "as close as it gets" by columnist Stephanie Grace.[8] Gill Pratt's appointment to SUNO's Executive Cabinet was immediately criticized by, among others, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.[9] Amid astonishment over the appropriateness and timing of the appointment—in that all Louisiana public universities were facing steep budget cuts and suggestions were circulating that SUNO should be merged with the neighboring University of New Orleans—Gill Pratt, with the urging of SUNO chancellor Victor Ukpolo, went on a leave of absence without pay.[10]

Gill Pratt had not been seen in public since 22 May 2009 when on June 5 she—along with Mose Jefferson, Betty Jefferson, and Angela Coleman—pleaded "not guilty" before U.S. magistrate Joseph Wilkinson Jr. at the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans. Gill Pratt's lawyer was Michael Fawer, who also represents Mose Jefferson in a separate bribery case.[11]

At a hearing before U. S. District Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle on 17 June 2009, lawyers for Betty Jefferson and Angela Coleman requested a delay from the 3 August 2009 start date for the racketeering trial; at the same hearing, however, lawyers for Gill Pratt and Mose Jefferson requested that the racketeering trial begin as scheduled on August 3.[12] On 28 July 2009, Lemelle delayed the start of the racketeering trial to 25 January 2010.[13]

On August 4, Fawer unsuccessfully sought (denied by U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon) to delay Mose Jefferson's bribery trial until after the racketeering trial, because, as summarized by Michael Kunzelman of the Times-Picayune:

Gill Pratt . . . isn't available to testify during the bribery case this month because she is awaiting her own trial next year in a [the] separate but related racketeering conspiracy case.[14]

On 21 August 2009 Mose Jefferson was convicted on four felony counts in his bribery trial.[15]

On 2011 February 24 one juror's siding with Gill Pratt resulted in a mistrial.[16] The Times-Picayune editorialized over the hung jury, citing what the newspaper called "the criminal enterprise run by some members of the Jefferson family."[17]

Education[edit]

A lifelong resident of District B, Gill Pratt attended Holy Ghost Elementary School, Xavier University Preparatory School, Dillard University, and the University of New Orleans.

Election history[edit]

State Representative, 91st Representative District, Spring 1991

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, March 23, 1991

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Renée Gill Pratt Democratic 853 (29%) Runoff
Linda Compton Democratic 757 (25%) Runoff
Others n.a. 1,375 (46%) Defeated

Second Ballot, April 20, 1991

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Renée Gill Pratt Democratic 1,246 (52%) Elected
Linda Compton Democratic 1,159 (48%) Defeated

State Representative, 91st Representative District, Fall 1991

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, October 10, 1991

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Renée Gill Pratt Democratic 7,605 (72%) Elected
Louella Givens Republican 2,941 (28%) Defeated

Councilmember, District B, 1994

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, February 5, 1994

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Oliver Thomas Democratic 9,467 (42%) Runoff
Renée Gill Pratt Democratic 8,609 (38%) Runoff
Others n.a. 4,651 (20%) Defeated

Second Ballot, March 5, 1994

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Oliver Thomas Democratic 13,964 (52%) Elected
Renée Gill Pratt Democratic 13,042 (48%) Defeated

State Representative, 91st Representative District, 1995

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, October 21, 1995

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Renée Gill Pratt Democratic 6,903 (78%) Elected
George Patterson Democratic 1,933 (22%) Defeated

State Representative, 91st Representative District, 1999

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, October 23, 1999

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Renée Gill Pratt Democratic No opponents Elected

Councilmember, District B, 2002

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, February 2, 2002

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Renée Gill Pratt Democratic 14,016 (77%) Elected
Kenneth Bazile Democratic 3,783 (14%) Defeated
Donald Ray Pryor Democratic 1,526 (8%) Defeated

Councilmember, District B, 2006

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, April 22, 2006

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Renée Gill Pratt Democratic 7,042 (40%) Runoff
Stacy Head Democratic 6,691 (38%) Runoff
Others n.a. 3,893 (22%) Defeated

Second Ballot, May 20, 2006

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Stacy Head Democratic 10,214 (54%) Elected
Renée Gill Pratt Democratic 8,694 (46%) Defeated

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ SUNO Title III site (accessed 28 May 2009)—a position she took leave without pay starting in 2009.
  2. ^ Donze, Frank; Carr, Martha (2011-02-25). "Lone juror thwarts Gill Pratt verdict: Prosecutors vow to dry again". Times-Picayune (Saint Tammany Edition). pp. A1, A5. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  3. ^ For more on Peychaud see Joseph Cao.
  4. ^ "Mose Jefferson asks for trial delay" in Times-Picayune, 4 June 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B3 (web version = "Mose Jefferson seeks trial delay").
  5. ^ Gordon Russell, "Mose Jefferson, William's brother, was the first to taste victory in politics . . . behind the scenes" in Times-Picayune, 31 May 2009, Metro Edition, pp. A1, A12.
  6. ^ Laura Maggi, "Mose Jefferson may need a new lawyer: Fed prosecutors cite conflict of interest" in Times-Picayune, 5 June 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B3.
  7. ^ John Pope, "Gill Pratt named to SUNO Cabinet" in Times-Picayune, 28 May 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. A1, A11 (web version = Gill Pratt will sit on SUNO Cabinet).
  8. ^ Stephanie Grace, "All in the Jefferson family" in Times-Picayune, 28 May 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B7. On 8 June 2009 the Times-Picayune, quoting staff and wire reports, referred to Gill Pratt as Mose Jefferson's "girlfriend" ("Mose Jefferson asks judge to dismiss case" in Times-Picayune, 8 June 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B2; web version = "Mose Jefferson wants case dismissed: Lawyer calls case 'accident of birth'").
  9. ^ "SUNO advisor angers Jindal" in Advocate (Baton Rouge), 29 May 2009, p. 15A.
  10. ^ Summarizing the situation, columnist Stephanie Grace, "Jefferson grip on SUNO isn't what it once was" in Times-Picayune, 2 June 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B5, called Gill Pratt "a truly terrible steward of the public purse" (further, SUNO's "having an alleged criminal in its brain trust" sent "the wrong message"). Grace took the view that William J. Jefferson, whose wife Andrea Green Jefferson continues as a SUNO administrator, was losing his clout at the institution.
  11. ^ Michelle Krupa, "Ex-N.O. official pleads innocent" in Times-Picayune, 6 June 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. A1, A11.
  12. ^ Laura Maggi, “Gill Pratt, Jefferson push for August trial” in Times-Picayune, 18 June 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B3 (web version = Gill Pratt, Mose Jefferson push to keep August trial date).
  13. ^ "Trial delayed for Gill Pratt, Jefferson kin" in Times-Picayune, 29 July 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B3. The bribery trial of Mose Jefferson was still set to begin on 10 August 2009.
  14. ^ Michael Kunzelman "Trial delay rejected for Mose Jefferson" in Times-Picayune, 5 August 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. A6. See also Laura Maggi's extensive analysis of William J. Jefferson's conviction and its imputed impact on relatives and associates (Laura Maggi "Jefferson family tree is shaken: Mighty political organization falls to legal assault portraying corruption" in Times-Picayune, 9 August 2009, Metro Edition, pp. A1, A18).
  15. ^ Mose Jefferson guilty of 4 of 7 bribery charges.
  16. ^ Donze, Frank; Carr, Martha (2011-02-25). "Lone juror thwarts Gill Pratt verdict: Prosecutors vow to dry again". Times-Picayune (Saint Tammany Edition). pp. A1, A5. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  17. ^ "The Gill Pratt mistrial". Times-Picayune (Saint Tammany Edition). 2011-02-25. p. B6. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
Louisiana House of Representatives
Preceded by
Diana Bajoie (D)
Louisiana Legislature House District 91
(Orleans Parish)

1991–2002
Succeeded by
Rosalind Peychaud (D)
Political offices
Preceded by
Oliver Thomas (D)
Councilmember, District B
2002–2006
Succeeded by
Stacy Head (D)