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Jefferson hearing delayed over evidence issue

A hearing on allegations that a developer convicted of tax credit fraud was hoarding cash to keep it from the government has been postponed a month at the request of prosecutors.

A government lawyer said the defense notified the prosecution at the “11th hour” that it would not agree to admissibility of bank records and other documents without authentication.

The government said it would be unable to present about half of its evidence if the judge sustained a hearsay objection, so it asked for delay.

At issue is the government’s effort to increase the possible sentence for Billy Jefferson to 20 years. He had been facing a six-and-a-half-year sentence until prosecutors said they uncovered efforts by Jefferson to convert his assets into cash and either flee with the money or stash it in a homemade waterproof safe.

Prosecutors indicted Jefferson on Tuesday on three additional charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding and aggravated identity theft.

Jefferson’s lawyers bristled at the suggestion that their disclosure of the intent to raise a hearsay objection was some kind of ambush.

“For the Government to imply that it was, somehow, sandbagged is preposterous,” wrote John S. Martin of Richmond, one of Jefferson’s lawyers. Instead, Jefferson contended, the government “neglected to properly prepare for the hearing.”

Underlying the dispute was the assumption by prosecutors that hearsay would be permitted in the hearing on allegations of a breach of a plea agreement. “Upon further research, however, the United States believes the answer is unclear,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael R. Gill.

U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. moved the hearing forward to June 11.

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