Racketeering Trial For New Orleans District Attorney To Begin
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ District Attorney Harry Connick goes on trial Monday on federal charges he helped an arrested bookie continue his gambling operation, an accusation Connick calls ″pure D baloney.″
In addition to Connick, actor Paul Burke, who starred in television’s ″The Naked City;″ former federal prosecutor Patrick Fanning; businessman Wilson Abraham; convicted bookmaker Walton Aucoin and Aucoin’s alleged employees, Steve Bertolino and William Condon, are on trial in U.S. District Court.
If convicted of racketeering and aiding an illegal gambling operation, Connick could be sentenced to 25 years in prison and fined $250,000.
″I did nothing wrong,″ Connick said last December when he was indicted. ″The allegations are pure D baloney.″
Prosecutors from the Justice Department in Washington are handling the case, but Connick blamed New Orleans’ native U.S. attorney, John Volz, for the indictment. Volz and Connick have had well publicized feuds over the years and Connick said the charges against him were the result of a Volz vendetta.
″He knows it’s a damn lie and everyone else who knows me knows it’s a damn lie,″ Connick said after his arraignment last year. He has since been mum on the subject, saying he’d prefer to present his case at trial.
Volz began the federal investigation of Connick. He said he turned the case over to Washington prosecutors to avoid any appearance of bias or conflict of interests involving Connick or Fanning. Fanning once was an assistant to Volz.
In the indictment, Aucoin, Bertolino and Condon were accused of owning and conducting a New Orleans-based illegal interstate gambling operation that netted up to $2,000 a day.
Fanning, Abraham and Burke were charged with aiding the operation by helping Connick cook up an excuse for returning the seized records Aucoin needed to keep it going. Aucoin was arrested in December 1988.
Connick has said he acted in accordance with state criminal procedures, which allow defendants to see evidence against them so their attorneys can prepare a defense.
Connick, district attorney in New Orleans since 1973, is up for re-election this fall.
The father of Grammy-winning jazz musician Harry Connick Jr., he made news nationally last year when he joined state Attorney General William Guste in asking a federal court to revive Louisiana’s harsh anti-abortion law, not enforced since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision of the Supreme Court.
The effort failed.
Two people indicted in the gambling case along with Connick pleaded guilty last week. Aucoin’s daughter, Darlene Peake, and Iris Ethridge, a bank employee who handled Aucoin’s account at a suburban New Orleans bank, pleaded guilty to helping conduct an illegal gambling business.
Federal prosecutors agreed to drop a more serious charge of racketeering in exchange for the women’s cooperation. A charge of perjury against Ms. Ethridge also will be dropped, attorneys said.