WASHINGTON — Former Representative William J. Jefferson was convicted on Wednesday afternoon of using his office to try to enrich himself and relatives through a web of bribes and payoffs involving business ventures in Africa.
A federal court jury in Alexandria, Va., deliberated for five days before finding Mr. Jefferson, 62, a New Orleans Democrat who served in Congress for 18 years until being defeated in 2008, guilty of 11 of 16 counts of bribery-related crimes. The jurors thus rejected defense assertions that Mr. Jefferson’s business-promotion activities in Africa did not qualify as “official acts” under public corruption laws.
Mr. Jefferson faces a long prison term, unless his conviction is overturned on appeal.
Jefferson had pleaded not guilty on all 16 counts. The counts include bribery, racketeering, fraud, obstruction of justice and conspiracy and could earn Mr. Jefferson a prison stay of 235 years.
In 2006, Jefferson’s office was raided by the FBI where they discovered a large sum of bills hidden away in a freezer.
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 edited affidavit and pictures of the alleged 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 investigation, which led to guilty pleas by a Kentucky businessman and a former Jefferson aide.
One corrupt politician down, how many more to go?
If you should happen to know the whereabouts of a corrupt politician, do not attempt to apprehend them. Contact the local authorities instead.