[JURIST] Former US congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) [official profile] was sentenced [press release] Friday to 13 years in prison on 11 counts of bribery and corruption. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] found that Jefferson solicited bribes between 2000 and 2005 while serving in the US House of Representatives, ordering him to forfeit $470,000. In return for the bribes, the court found that Jefferson used his office to promote businesses, including telecommunications deals, oil concessions, and satellite transmission contracts with various African countries. Although prosecutors originally sought a 33-year sentence, Jefferson's sentence is still the longest term of incarceration [Roll Call report] ordered for a former member of Congress.
Jefferson was convicted [JURIST report] in August and has been free on bail despite concerns that he posed a flight risk. Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed [JURIST report] Jefferson's appeal seeking to have the bribery charges dropped. He argued the accusations 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) announced that it planned to pursue Jefferson's case despite an appeals court ruling [JURIST reports] that other evidence confiscated from his office during an FBI raid was protected by the Speech or Debate Clause. Jefferson pleaded not guilty to the charges [JURIST reports] against him in June 2007. In January of that year, former Jefferson aide Brett Pfeffer pleaded guilty [DOJ press release] for his involvement.