- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A former New Orleans City Council member and ex-state legislator - Renee Gill Pratt - has been ordered to report June 30 to start serving four years and two months in federal prison.

Pratt had remained free while pursuing appeals of her 2011 conviction in a plot to steal more than $1 million from taxpayer-funded charities.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle on Wednesday ordered her to prison after trimming her original seven-year sentence.

On Thursday, her lawyer filed papers to have her conviction thrown out - another case in which a defendant claims a case was tainted by the online comments of former prosecutor Sal Perricone.

Perricone resigned in 2012 after it was revealed that he was the source of anonymous online comments on various cases.

Pratt, who served in the state House before moving to the New Orleans council, was a companion - and a co-defendant - of the late political operative Mose Jefferson; and was a political ally of Jefferson’s brother, disgraced former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, who was convicted of corruption in a separate case.

In filings Thursday, Pratt defense lawyer Michael Fawer cited various comments, now attributed to Perricone, that Fawer said were “poisoning public opinion” for years before Pratt was tried for racketeering conspiracy.

Fawer said 86 percent of the pool from which jurors were chosen for Pratt’s case had knowledge of Pratt and the Jeffersons and the court eliminated more than half the pool because their answers on questionnaires revealed bias. “What the court did not know when it struggled to pick an impartial jury was that a highly placed member of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was inciting the prejudice,” Fawer wrote, referring to Perricone.

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