Joan M. Booth, a key official of a Youth Pride Inc. spinoff company, told a U.S. District Court judge yesterday that she did not fully understand a guilty plea she entered last October, and that she did not in fact conspire with two persons--including her sister, Mary Treadwell--to defraud the government, as she had said in that plea.
Booth's attorney told U.S. District Court Judge John Garrett Penn that his client did not want to withdraw her plea of guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of tax evasion.
Rather, he said, she wanted to "clarify certain facts" and state that she did not conspire with Treadwell, former executive director of Youth Pride Inc., and Charles W. Rinker Jr., an official of the spinoff firm P.I. Properties Inc.
Booth told Penn that one reason she pleaded guilty was that she feared prosecutors would introduce at the trial untrue allegations that she had sexual relationships with certain government officials in order to benefit P.I. Properties.
Booth's attorney, Thomas Abbenante, said Booth "denies ever conspiring with anyone else except former P.I. Properties general manager Robert E. Lee."
Booth originally pleaded guilty to conspiring with Treadwell, Rinker and Lee as part of an alleged scheme to steal and misappropriate thousands of dollars from a federally funded housing project they had managed. All four were indicted in February of last year by a federal grand jury.
Lee pleaded guilty last January to charges of conspiracy and making false statements to federal officials. Charges against Rinker were dropped last month.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William D. Pease, who supervised the government's 2 1/2-year investigation of the case, said yesterday that Booth was not attempting to clarify her plea but to significantly alter it. "The court has no choice but to vacate that plea and rejoin her with Treadwell for trial."
Treadwell, who has pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to go on trial June 6.
Booth, who was the on-site project manager at a housing complex at 14th and Clifton streets NW called Clifton Terrace, told Penn she was guilty of conspiring with Lee to take $1,145 in Clifton Terrace funds to pay for her personal legal fees, lying to government officials about that misappropriation, and evading taxes on those funds.
But she denied yesterday that she understood that when she entered her guilty plea that she was also pleading guilty to a series of other allegations in the indictment, including the use of thousands of dollars in other Clifton Terrace funds for improvements on her home and for other businesses in which she or the other officials in the organization had interests.
Booth told Penn she did not discuss all aspects of the agreement with her former attorney, Grandison E. Hill.
Hill, saying the matter was in litigation, declined to comment yesterday.
Pease said that while he told Hill the government had received certain allegations regarding Booth's relationships with government officials, he could not recall ever saying that evidence would be introduced at trial.
Pease said under oath that in meetings before the guilty plea was formally accepted, both Booth and Hill were given specific details of the facts the government was going to introduce to show her involvement.
Booth "knew what was going on" the day she pleaded, Pease told Penn, and was "not being candid with this court today and has not been candid with the court before."