Pierce O'Donnell, the lead attorney in the case brought by victims of Hurricane Katrina against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, continues to assert that the federal government's criminal charges against him should be dismissed, according to court documents.
O'Donnell, of Los Angeles-based O'Donnell & Associates, was indicted last year on charges that he reimbursed employees of his law firm and others for giving $26,000 in campaign contributions to a committee supporting a presidential candidate, believed to be then-U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.
O'Donnell faces related charges that he influenced the treasurer of the committee to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission by failing to reveal that the contributions, made in 2003, were indirectly from him.
O'Donnell has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could face up to 12 years in prison.
In March, O'Donnell filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the statute under which he is charged does not prohibit reimbursing others who donate to a campaign under their own names. Additionally, he said, the treasurer of the committee did not commit a crime by reporting the correct names of the contributors.
The federal government rebutted O'Donnell's interpretation, claiming that the statute was designed to address indirect contributions and reimbursements.
O'Donnell disputed that assertion in court papers filed on Monday.
The text of the statute "simply prohibits an individual from making a contribution and providing a false name; it does not even mention, let alone expressly prohibit, reimbursements of contributions made by others, the offense charged in the indictment," he argued.
His lawyer, Brian O'Neill, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Jones Day, and Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.
A hearing on the dismissal motion was scheduled for Monday.
On April 20, trial began in U.S. District Court in a case O'Donnell brought on behalf of Hurricane Katrina victims against the Army Corps of Engineers, which the government has estimated could cost taxpayers about $100 billion.
The plaintiffs allege that the Corps failed to maintain the levees along a major navigation channel, which contributed to the flooding from Hurricane Katrina.
A bench trial is expected to last for up to four weeks.