The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld all but one of the convictions against Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson this week.
Jefferson had claimed in his appeal that the charges against him were improper because his attempts to influence foreign officials fell outside his congressional job description and because the bribes he received were not part of an explicit quid pro quo agreement. The Fourth Circuit concluded that “an absurd result would occur if we were to deem Jefferson’s illicit actions as outside the purview of the bribery statute simply because he was rewarded by periodic payments to his family’s businesses,” reports the Times-Picayune.
Jefferson shot from fame to infamy when feds searched his Capitol Hill office in 2006 after discovering $90,000 in alleged bribe money his freezer at home. It was the first time in history that a sitting congressman's office had been searched, reports CNN. Jefferson denied wrongdoing, and won re-election later that year.
In August 2009, Rep. Jefferson was convicted in a Virginia federal court of 11 offenses -- including conspiracy, wire fraud, bribery, money laundering, and racketeering -- arising from his involvement in multiple bribery and fraud schemes. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Jefferson appealed, arguing:
- The court gave the jury erroneous instructions with respect to the definition of "official act" and the "quid pro quo" element of the bribery-related charge.
- Jefferson's schemes to deprive citizens of honest services did not constitute federal crimes.
- Venue was improper on one of his wire fraud offenses.
We grew up in Rep. Jefferson's home state. This is the state where the former governor -- who was recently released after serving 10 years in prison for corruption charges -- once bragged that he would only lose an election if caught "in bed with a dead girl or a live boy."
Political corruption is practically a sport in Louisiana, but the Virginia-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was not so understanding about Louisiana's passion for political games. Writing for the three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Robert King noted, "There was, in this case, an ongoing course of illicit and repugnant conduct by Jefferson - conduct for which he was compensated considerably by those on whose behalf he was acting," reports Reuters.
William Jefferson can now seek an en banc rehearing before the Fourth Circuit, or appeal directly to the Supreme Court.
- U.S. v. William Jefferson (Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Ex-Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson Convicted in Cold Cash Case (FindLaw's Courtside)
- Former Rep. William Jefferson's Conviction Upheld by Federal Court (The Washington Post)
- Ex-East Chicago Mayor George Pabey Asks 7th Circuit for New Trial (FindLaw's Seventh Circuit Blog)