New Orleans trumpet player Irvin Mayfield pleaded not guilty Thursday (Jan. 4) to federal charges stemming from allegations that he took money from New Orleans Public Library to enrich himself and a nonprofit he ran.
Mayfield, who has enjoyed widespread critical and popular success as a jazz musician, now faces 19 criminal charges. They include one count of conspiracy, four counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and one count of obstruction of justice.
He pleaded not guilty to each and every count Thursday at U.S. District Court in New Orleans, in his first court appearance since being indicted.
Mayfield’s longtime artistic partner, Ronald Markham, is also a co-defendant in the federal case and faces 18 charges. He likewise pleaded not guilty Thursday.
Mayfield and Markham were both slapped with a federal indictment last month, alleging they secured a host of perks through library foundation fund transfers. Among numerous instances of cushy spending, the indictment alleges the pair spent tens of thousands of dollars for New York City hotel rooms, $23,000 on a Saks Fifth Avenue spending spree and that Mayfield bought a gold-plated trumpet for $15,000.
A trial has been set for March 12.
Magistrate Judge Daniel E. Knowles found Mayfield to be indigent, noting that the musician makes a little north of $800 a month. He and Markham were both permitted to remain free on $25,000 bond, but were required to surrender their passports and restrict their movements to monitored domestic travel.
Both men face maximum 20-year prison sentences on several on the charges of convicted. Each of the 11 money laundering charges carries a maximum 10-year sentence.
Roundly hailed as New Orleans’ cultural emissary after Hurricane Katrina, the Grammy Award-winning Mayfield became embroiled in scandal following a May 2015 report by WWL-TV, which catalogued allegations that the trumpeter funneled money away from the city’s public library system and into his own nonprofit group between 2012 and 2013. Those allegations are reiterated in last month’s federal indictment.
According to the indictment, Mayfield allegedly steered more than $1 million over the two-year period from the library’s fundraising foundation to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, a nonprofit he founded in 2002, to help pay for $10 million in costs for the New Orleans Jazz Market in Central City. At that time, Mayfield served on the library foundation’s board and granted broad executive powers to himself, including over contracts, WWL reported.
Mayfield promptly resigned from the library foundation’s board. In May 2016, the jazz orchestra agreed to pay back the roughly $1.1 million it had received, via a five-year repayment plan and in-kind services such as concerts to benefit the library system. The following month, Mayfield resigned as the orchestra’s artistic director.
The indictment also alleges Mayfield spent more than $130,000 in library donations on travel expenses for trips taken during his library foundation tenure as well as salaries for himself and Markham. The foundation has said a $18,000 hotel bill Mayfield racked up in New York and charged to the foundation had nothing to do with library business.
In late October, Mayfield was booted from a seven-year residency at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street. Dubbed Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, the residency aimed to bring “jazz back to Bourbon Street” with nightly performances hosting the city’s premier musicians, including Mayfield himself.
The hotel’s general manager, Alfred Groos, at the time skirted questions as to whether Mayfield was let go due to the allegations, saying only that the famed trumpeter had brought “countless moments of show-stopping entertainment” to the venue.