Broussard, Wilkinson plead not guilty (again)

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Aaron Broussard outside U.S. District Court following todays not guilty plea.
  • Aaron Broussard outside U.S. District Court following today's not guilty plea.

Former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard and former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson today pleaded not guilty to more than twenty federal charges including payroll fraud, theft of federal funds, conspiracy and, as of a second superseding indictment released by the U.S. Attorney's Office this week, bribery. Broussard, who has been receiving treatment for prostate cancer since March, revealed to federal Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy that he has recently been diagnosed with skin cancer.

Today marks the third time Broussard and Wilkinson pleaded not guilty before Stacy in an arraignment hearing, as the government's case has continued to evolve.

"This indictment's a bit different from the former indictment in that accusations have been added," Stacy said before reading out the charges.

(More after the jump)

This week, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office charged Broussard with five counts of accepting bribes from telecommunications contractor William Mack, in exchange for Broussard steering parish business to Mack's Kenner-based First Communications Co. The government believes that Broussard received $66,000 from Mack between 2004 and 2007. Mack was also charged this week and pleaded not guilty in an initial, procedural arraignment. He is expected to change that plea to guilty and cooperate in the case against Broussard and Wilkinson.

Wilkinson has been charged with one new count in the second superseding indictment for allegedly conspiring to cover up the scheme.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Klebba said today that Broussard's maximum exposure, if found guilty, is a 485 year sentence. Wilkinson could be sentenced to 435 years.

Following their pleas, Stacy inquired about Broussard's health, asking whether he would seek a delay in his trial, now set for Oct. 1 in U.S. District Court in New Orleans. Broussard has been receiving radiation therapy since being diagnosed with prostate cancer in March.

"I've completed 43 treatments of radiation," Broussard said. He added that he expects to know whether those treatments have been successful by September.

Broussard, who was wearing a bandage over his right temple, also said that he has recently been diagnosed with skin cancer and has undergone surgery. He later told press outside the court that he's scheduled for a second surgery on the left side of his face.

Under orders from Judge Hayden Head, who is slated to be the trial judge in the case, Broussard and Wilkinson's attorneys have until Wednesday to file motions seeking a delay of trial related to the new charges or Broussard's health issues. Broussard's attorney Robert Jenkins told Stacy that he may request a change of venue, which would also be due by Wednesday.

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