guilty on 11 counts
The verdict is in – out of 16, William Jefferson found guilty on 11 counts
Sentencing within 90 days, and he is expected to go to jail immediately after receiving the sentence.
Frankly, I am shocked, I thought he would get off for sure…
ALEXANDRIA, VA. – Former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson was found guilty of 11 of 16 corruption charges today by a federal jury.
The jury of eight women and four men returned a guilty verdict following five days of deliberation.
The 16 counts and the verdicts
In the 16-count indictment, Jefferson was charged with soliciting bribes and other crimes for a series of schemes in which he helped American businesses broker deals in West African in exchange for payments or financial considerations to companies controlled by members of his family, including his brother Mose, his wife, Andrea, their five daughters and a son-in-law.
Jefferson, who represented the New Orleans-based 2nd Congressional District for nine terms, will now face sentencing by Judge T.S. Ellis III, who earlier meted out stiff sentences for lesser figures in the case. According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Jefferson faced 235 years in prison if convicted on all counts, and will still face substantial prison time.
The verdict comes four years after the Aug. 3, 2005 raids of Jefferson’s homes in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., in which the FBI found $90,000 in cash hidden in the freezer of his D.C. home, money the government said Jefferson was going to deliver as a bribe to Atiku Abubakar, then vice president of Nigeria, to gain his help with a telecommunications deal in Nigeria being pursued by Lori Mody, a Northern Virginia businesswoman.
The money was the lion’s share of $100,000 in FBI cash that the congressman was videotaped receiving packed in a briefcase days earlier in a suburban Virginia parking lot from Mody, who, beginning in March of 2005, had become a cooperating witness for the FBI, secretly taping her conversations with Jefferson.
The jury did not find him guilty on the Foreign Corruptions Practices Act, which was the count linked to the money in the freezer.
While Mody did not testify at the trial, the jury heard segments of her taped conversations with Jefferson along with more than six weeks of testimony from government witnesses, including iGate Inc. CEO Vernon Jackson and Mody financial adviser Brett Pfeffer, both of whom are serving time after pleading guilty to their involvement in the bribe schemes, and hoped to see their sentences reduced in exchange for their testimony against Jefferson.
Jefferson did not testify in his own defense and his formal defense lasted only about two hours. In his closing argument, lead defense attorney Robert Trout presented his client as a man whose dealings had placed him in an ethical “gray” area, but who had not broken the law.
Trout’s argument was that Jefferson’s help on these business deals in Africa were beyond the purview of his “official acts” as a member of Congress, and thus did not violate bribery statutes which prohibit receiving things of value in exchange for official acts.
Trout argued that most of the key witness, including Jackson and Pfeffer, and a number of others who testified to avoid prosecution for their own involvement in the various schemes, were telling stories the government wanted to hear to save their own skins.
Of the government case, Trout said, “It boggles the mind how they constructed their way around the facts to make something that was not a crime seem like a crime. That’s power.”
The prosecution team scoffed at the notion that Jefferson had anyone to blame but himself, portraying Jefferson as a relentless shakedown artist.
“He never let an opportunity to demand a bribe payment pass him by,” said assistant U.S. Attorney Rebeca Bellows in her closing argument.
The jury was comprised of six white women, two white men, two black women and two black men.
Jefferson, the first African-American congressman from Louisiana since Reconstruction, was defeated in a storm-delayed general election in December by Anh “Joseph” Cao, a little-known Republican attorney who benefited from a very low turnout.
Count 1: Conspiracy to Solicit Bribes by a Public Official, Deprive Citizens of
Honest Services by Wire Fraud, and Violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (Max Sentence: 5 years)
Count 2: Conspiracy to Solicit Bribes by a Public Official & Deprive Citizens of Honest Services by Wire Fraud (Max Sentence: 5 years)
Count 3: Solicitation of Bribes by a Public Official (Max Sentence: 15 years)
Count 4: Solicitation of Bribes by a Public Official (Max Sentence: 15 years)
Count 6: Scheme to Deprive Citizens of Honest Services by Wire Fraud (Max Sentence: 20 years)
Count 7: Scheme to Deprive Citizens of Honest Services by Wire Fraud (Max Sentence: 20 years)
Count 10: Scheme to Deprive Citizens of Honest Services by Wire Fraud (Max Sentence: 20 years)
Count 12: Money Laundering (Max Sentence: 10 years)
Count 13: Money Laundering (Max Sentence: 10 years)
Count 14: Money Laundering(Max Sentence: 10 years)
Count 16: Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization, Pattern of Racketeering Activity (RICO) (Max Sentence: 20 years)
Jefferson was found not guilty on the following charges:
Count 5: Scheme to Deprive Citizens of Honest Services by Wire Fraud (Max Sentence: 20 years)
Count 8: Scheme to Deprive Citizens of Honest Services by Wire Fraud (Max Sentence: 20 years)
Count 9: Scheme to Deprive Citizens of Honest Services by Wire Fraud (Max Sentence: 20 years)
Count 11: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act(Max Sentence: 5 years)
Count 15: Obstruction of Justice (Max Sentence: 20 years)