November 18th, 2009
07:56 PM ET
13 years ago

Former congressman to remain free pending appeal of corruption conviction

Alexandria, Virginia (CNN) - A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana can remain free pending appeal of his conviction on corruption charges.

The appeal must be filed by November 23.

Jefferson, a Democrat who was defeated after nine terms representing the New Orleans area, was indicted in 2007 for bribery and other charges. The case included the discovery of $90,000 in the freezer of his Washington home.

Jefferson was not present at the hearing at U.S. District Court.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis last week allowed him to waive his appearance, and to travel back to New Orleans.

If the judge had denied his request to remain free pending appeal, Jefferson would have turned himself in to U.S. marshals at a field office in Louisiana. But after Wednesday's ruling, the former congressman must wear a tracking device to be purchased at his own expense, so authorities can keep track of his whereabouts. His travel is now limited to the federal court system's Eastern District of Louisiana.

Ellis, while not suggesting there had been any mistakes in the trial, acknowledged the defense has a basis to appeal regarding the scope of Jefferson's official duties as a member of Congress.

Defense attorney Robert Trout has suggested certain business dealings had nothing to do with his client's status as a member of the House of Representatives, and thus would not fall under bribery statutes.

Trout had argued throughout the case that unless such dealings were legislative in nature, they do not fall under the language of the statute under which Jefferson ultimately was convicted.

Trout also questioned the 13-year sentence Ellis handed down last Friday, saying it was "out of proportion" compared to other corruption cases.

The judge also planned to give prosecutors the authority to collect
$470,000 in assets that a jury decided were the proceeds of the criminal activity for which he was convicted.

Jefferson was accused of using his congressional clout between 2001 and 2005 to solicit and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for himself and his family in exchange for promoting products and services in Africa, especially Nigeria, and elsewhere.

The information on the cash discovered in Jefferson's Washington home in August 2005 was revealed in an affidavit used to obtain a warrant to search Jefferson's office in May 2006. Descriptions from the heavily redacted affidavit and pictures of the open freezer show bills wrapped in foil and tucked into frozen food containers, including a box for pie crusts and another for veggie burgers.

FBI agents told a judge the money was part of a $100,000 payment delivered by an informant in the bribery probe, which led to guilty pleas by a Kentucky businessman and a former Jefferson aide.

Jefferson, who graduated from Harvard Law School, represented Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of the New Orleans area. He lost his House seat to Anh Joseph Cao in the December 2008 election.

As a representative, Jefferson served on the House Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on trade and on the Budget Committee, and he co-chaired the caucus on Africa Trade and Investment as well as the caucus on Nigeria.

Filed under: William Jefferson
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Tom L

    Another Republican who is a crook....oh, no wait, it's a Democrat. That can't be. Fox must have had something to do with it. Oh, and if you're against Mr. Jefferson, well then you are just a racist and you can't stand seeing a black man holding public office.

    Isn't that right, Democrats?

    November 18, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  2. LacrosseDad

    O.K. and Sen. Leaky Leahy and AG Eric Holder and the clown in chief tell us that our judicial system is the want of the world...congratulations K S M, you will soon be a free man

    November 18, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  3. Cary in NC

    I think Obama has made a huge mistake bringing these terrorists to NY for trial. He needs to back out of that thing and just let it go away. OJ got off and he was guilty as sin.... I would NOT be surprised if these guys skate either. It's all politics.

    November 18, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  4. GI Joe

    Lock him up.

    He's corrupt.

    As a left-leaning independent, I say LOCK THEM ALL UP as soon ad fraud is proven.

    November 18, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  5. WIlly Brown

    A corrupt democrat, how shocking...

    November 18, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  6. Jacque Bauer

    Why is this convicted thief and crook allowed to remain free while awaiting APPEAL?? I don't think this luxury is afforded to the "common man", only to worthless cheating corrupt Democrats (which is most of them).

    November 18, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  7. AJ

    Of course. The judiciary hold politicians and celebrities to the lowest possible standards. If the guy had been a carpenter he'd be rotting in jail.

    November 18, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  8. N

    Anyone else, and they would be in jail, its a sad day for this country, short lived democracy...

    November 18, 2009 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  9. m smith

    Hey what he ought to do is switch party's and hollar how he is a christian . Then all will be forgiven.

    November 18, 2009 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  10. Gary

    Rep Jefferson and Rangal are crooks and should be in jail....Tim Gietner too! The Democrats have a culture of corruption. We need them out of office.

    November 18, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  11. 30 Year Veteran

    This is a crock. Why should he be treated different than any other citizen. Our government is corrupt to the core.

    November 18, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  12. Robin in Tampa, FL

    This guy gives new meaning to the phrase Cold Hard Cash!

    November 19, 2009 12:26 am at 12:26 am |