Shakespeare famously wrote, "It is a wise father that knows his own child." On the other hand, a guy named Skippy, whom I met in a bar late one evening, told me it is an unwise man that tests the limits of true love.
The Bard and Skippy both came to mind when I heard about former Councilwoman Renée Gill Pratt getting indicted for racketeering alongside her previously indicted (and now re-indicted) boyfriend Mose Jefferson, brother of fallen former Congressman Bill Jefferson, who is himself indicted in the Northern District of Virginia on 16 counts of political corruption and bribery. This is all getting as complicated as a Shakespearean play.
Which got me to wondering if Ms. Gill Pratt, despite her longstanding love for her political Romeo, will stand by her man even though doing so risks joining him in an untimely end, which, in this case, would be a fate worse than death: a long stretch in the federal pen. Or, might she prove more like one of King Lear's wicked daughters and turn on him in his political dotage?
These are not idle questions. Consider the timing of Gill Pratt's indictment — almost a year after Mose Jefferson's but based on acts that most recently occurred (and were surely known) in 2006. One has to wonder if the feds have been squeezing her for information since Mose's indictment last June and, getting none, finally just charged her as well. Then again, maybe it took this long to connect all the dots of the "criminal enterprise" the 75-page RICO indictment alleges between Mose Jefferson, Gill Pratt, 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson (sister of Mose and Dollar Bill) and Angela Coleman, Betty Jefferson's daughter.
The four are accused of skimming money from nonprofit organizations they set up to help poor folks in Central City, the Jefferson family's political heartland, from 1991 through 2006. Mose, Betty and Coleman were initially charged last June with fraud and conspiracy in connection with the alleged bilking of the Jeffersonian nonprofits. Now, with the addition of Gill Pratt as a co-defendant, the feds have upped the ante by adding a count of racketeering — which significantly increases the potential jail time and triggers forfeiture provisions for those who are convicted.
The stakes couldn't get any higher.
In addition to the racketeering charge, the two Jeffersons and Coleman face various other counts — mail fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. Mose additionally faces a charge of lying to the FBI, Betty faces tax evasion charges, and both Betty Jefferson and Coleman are charged with conspiracy to defraud the Treasury Department ... all of which adds up to a lot of years in jail if they are convicted.
Gill Pratt could get off the lightest with a maximum sentence of "only" 20 years, whereas Mose Jefferson faces up to 70 years. Betty Jefferson, thanks to the additional charges against her and her daughter, faces 339 years, while Coleman faces up to 257 years.
No doubt Gill Pratt's lawyer has done the math for her. So the question remains: Will she risk taking the fall with Mose, or will she fold and turn against him (and the others) as a federal witness?
I'm guessing Shakespeare would have penned this as a tragedy of star-cross'd political lovers who defied the forces around them until their mutual bitter end. Skippy, on the other hand, would be telling Mose about the limits of true love.