June 8th, 2007
11:40 AM ET
12 years ago

Jefferson: 'This is not who I am'

Watch Jefferson's comments after he entered a not guilty plea Friday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. William Jefferson pleaded not guilty Friday to numerous charges in a federal corruption indictment, saying the allegations against him "were contrived, many of them as part of a sting" operation.

"I implore you - the press and the public - to keep an open mind," he said outside the courthouse after his trial was set for January 16.

He vowed to fight as hard as it takes. "We will sell every stick of furniture in our home, and everything else that we may possess, to clear our name and to see that justice is done."

Jefferson faces a 16-count indictment charging him with soliciting bribes, wire fraud, racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy, as well as violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly seeking bribes from foreign officials.

Prosecutors say he and his family members netted hundreds of thousands dollars in the scam.

Jefferson committed much of his public statement to describing his family, including his five children's prestigious higher education degrees.

"This is the same family that the U.S. attorney and the FBI and, I guess, some in Justice want you to believe is a family of bribers, racketeers and conspirators," he said.

"But this is not who we are, this is not who I am. This is not what I have done."

The indictment came nearly two years after federal agents reported finding $90,000 in a freezer during a raid on Jefferson's Washington home. A separate raid on Jefferson's Capitol Hill office sparked a dispute over separation of powers between the then-Republican-led Congress and the White House.

Jefferson said Friday the $90,000 was "the FBI's money," which the FBI gave him as part of a "plan that I would give it to the Nigerian vice president. But I did not do that."

He said all the allegations against him are untrue. "Did I make a mistake in judgment along the way? Yes I did - that I deeply regret. But did I sell my office or conduct official acts for money? Absolutely not. This case involves purely private business activities and not official acts by me. "

Jefferson spoke after his arraignment, during which he waived his right to a speedy trial. A trial was set to begin January 16.

Filed under: William Jefferson
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. DJ, Los Angeles, CA

    Keep in open mind about what?

    Okay William. I will keep an open mind about why you could have possibly wanted to keep $90,000 in cash hidden in a freezer.

    Who keeps large sums of cash out of sight and out of the banks?

    Criminals...just fess up and quit trying to weasel your way out of this.


    June 8, 2007 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  2. james a jensen

    i pray to GOD rep. Jefferson is innocent.and if innocent-bring charges against the conspirators. Ii found guilty, (with much evidence,photos, voice recorders, etc.) throe away the key.

    June 8, 2007 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. J. Turchek, Stuart VA

    It is good to see a corrupt politician go down for his crimes.

    June 8, 2007 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  4. M.Turner Sacramento, ca

    Let's hope that the congressman and his wife will not sell their downstairs freezer.

    June 8, 2007 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  5. Paul, New Orleans, LA

    Thanks a lot Jefferson. Once again, another politician makes Louisiana looks like a crooked state. Two thumbs up!!! Yea right!

    June 8, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  6. Steve Savage, okc, ok

    The faster he goes down the better. The democrats don't need him, he's easily replaceable. The most difficult thing in the world is putting somebody NOT corrupt in a lousiana congressional position. Ethics is in short supply in that state in general.

    June 10, 2007 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  7. DMW, Roeland Park, KS

    It may be exactly who he is! They found $90,000 in his freezer...come on, now.

    Yet, in America, you are innocent until proven quilty...yet, it does not look good for him.

    June 11, 2007 11:08 am at 11:08 am |