Thursday, August 06, 2009

Jefferson Found Guilty Of 11 Of 16 Counts

Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson has been found guilty of 11 of the 16 charges against him in a federal bribery and conspiracy trial. Among those charges, one of the most serious is a guilty verdict on a RICO charge, or Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization charge. That charge alone carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Jefferson, a Democrat who served as New Orleans' congressman for nine terms, was also convicted of soliciting bribes, money laundering and depriving citizens of honest services by wire fraud. "This is an important prosecution. Congressman Jefferson owed his citizens his honest service and he violated that trust. This is what brought us here today," said Dana J. Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. About an hour after the verdict was announced, Jefferson appeared before reporters alongside his attorney, Robert Trout. He had few comments in response to the verdict. "I'm holding up," Jefferson said. Prosecutors alleged Jefferson accepted more than $400,000 in bribes and seeking millions more in exchange for brokering business deals in Africa. Federal investigators who raided his Washington apartment discovered $90,000 in his freezer that they claimed was intended bribe money. "Ninety thousand dollars in a freezer is not a gray area. It's a violation. And today a jury of his peers found him guilty," Boente said. The jury's verdict brings to an end the nearly eight-week long trial. Jurors deliberated for just under five days before reaching a verdict Wednesday afternoon."From the amount of time they took to deliberate, jury seems to have done a very efficient and thorough job," said legal analyst Chick Foret, a local attorney who has been closely following the case. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 30, and Jefferson could face a maximum of 135 years in prison for the charges on which he was convicted. If sentences for different counts are served concurrently, Jefferson could be released in a matter of decades. If they are served consecutively, Jefferson may be facing a century in prison. Prosecutors asked for Jefferson to be taken into federal custody immediately, but Judge T.S. Ellis denied that request. “He should begin his sentence shortly if not immediately after his Oct. 30 sentencing hearing. He will probably not be allowed out on bond while he waits for an appeal," Foret said. “He should be in custody by the winter holidays if not earlier.” Jefferson may also be ordered to forfeit $400,000 in alleged bribes to the federal government. The jury will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Thursday to consider that issue. An appeal may not come forward for nine months to a year. "Convictions are not likely to be overturned," said political analyst Charles Rice, who also has been following the case. Below is the complete breakdown of what the jury found:
Guilty on 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.

Guilty on count 2: Conspiracy to solicit bribes by a public official and deprive citizens of honest services by wire fraud.

Guilty on counts 3-4: Solicitation of bribes by a public official.

Not guilty on count 5, guilty on counts 6-7, not guilty on counts 8-9, guilty on count 10: Scheme to deprive citizens of honest services by wire fraud.

Not guilty on count 11: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Guilty on counts 12-14: Money laundering.

Not guilty on count 15: Obstruction of justice.

Guilty on count 16: Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization, pattern of racketeering activity (RICO).