Former congressman convicted on bribery, money laundering charges

[JURIST] Former Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) [official profile; JURIST news archive] was found guilty [press release] on Wednesday of 11 counts of public corruption. Jefferson was convicted of using his position on the US House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee [official website] to promote the interests of companies involved in development projects in Africa, seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for himself and African government officials. While Jefferson faces a maximum of 150 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines for bribery, racketeering and money laundering, he was acquitted on five other counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [DOJ materials] and obstruction of justice. The US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente [official profile], said that the conviction "should be a clear signal that no public official – and certainly not a US Congressman – can put their office up for sale and betray that office." Judge T S Ellis III allowed Jefferson to remain free on bond until his sentencing, scheduled for October 30, over the objections of prosecutors who cited his ties to Africa in labeling him a flight risk. The jury will decide Thursday whether Jefferson is required to forfeit $456,000 and stock allegedly acquired through corruption.

In November, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed [JURIST report] Jefferson's appeal seeking to have bribery charges against him dropped. He had argued the charges were based on evidence protected by the US Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause [text; backgrounder], which makes certain information relating to legislative action privileged. In March, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it planned to pursue the case against Jefferson despite an appeals court ruling [JURIST reports] that other evidence confiscated from his office during an FBI raid was protected by the Speech and Debate Clause. Jefferson pleaded not guilty to the charges [JURIST reports] against him in June. In January 2007, former Jefferson aide Brett Pfeffer pleaded guilty [DOJ press release] to bribery charges for his role in the scheme.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.