Ann Heisenfelt/AP
U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-LA

Corruption Charges Against Louisiana Congressman Upheld

November 13, 2008 04:43 PM
by Denis Cummings
Rep. William Jefferson will likely face trial for corruption charges after an appeals court denied his request to dismiss the charges.

Court Rejects Jefferson’s Appeal

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request Wednesday by Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., to dismiss a 16-count federal indictment against him for corrupt business dealings. Jefferson was charged on June 4, 2007, with crimes including bribery, racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

He argued to the court that the grand jury that indicted him had been notified about his congressional activities, a violation of the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause. The three-judge panel ruled that there was little evidence to prove this and, even if there was, the violation was not meaningful enough for the charges to be dropped.

The court, according to The Associated Press, said that Jefferson was “trying to apply the legislative immunity clause so broadly that it would be virtually impossible to charge a congressman with a crime.”

The decision clears the way for Jefferson’s criminal trial to begin in 2009, though Jefferson still has the option to appeal his case to the Supreme Court.

Despite his legal troubles, Jefferson is almost a certainty to win re-election; he won the Democratic primary run-off on Nov. 4 and now faces a Republican and three candidates in Louisiana’s Dec. 6 general election. Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which comprises much of New Orleans and its suburbs, hasn’t elected a Republican in more than a century.

Background: Jefferson’s legal troubles

The indictment came as the result of an FBI investigation that began in 2005. According to the investigation, Jefferson received bribes from 11 different companies, including Kentucky technology company iGate. Jefferson allegedly secured federal contracts for the company and traveled to West Africa to promote its business.

In August 2005, federal authorities raided his home and found $90,000 hidden in his freezer. They launched a second raid on his congressional office in May 2006, but evidence seized has not been released due to questions about the constitutionality of the raid.

Jefferson retained his seat in the 2006 election, winning 56 percent of the vote in the general run-off. On June 4, 2007, he was issued an indictment for receiving an alleged $400,000 in bribes. He pleaded not guilty four days later.

Related Topic: Ted Stevens

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who has served since 1968, might be re-elected despite being found guilty on corruption charges just over a week before the Nov. 4 election. He was convicted for failing to report $250,000 in gifts he had received from an oil-services company.

Stevens currently trails Democratic challenger Mark Begish by approximately 800 votes, with an estimated 40,000 absentee votes yet to be counted.

Reference: Court case and indictment


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