Saturday, November 14, 2009

Democrat Congressman Gets Off Easy

A low key story in the news this week is the sentencing of one of the major criminals straight from the halls from Congress. Not much publicity and actually a pretty light sentence. Read the details from WSJ:

Jefferson Sentenced to 13 Years


Former Louisiana congressman William Jefferson was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison following his conviction in a corruption case that featured a freezer full of suspected bribe money stuffed into boxes of veggie burgers.

A federal judge in Alexandria, Va., handed down the sentence to Mr. Jefferson, a 62-year-old Democrat ousted by voters last year. He had been convicted by a jury of bribery, money laundering and racketeering in schemes that prosecutors said he devised to enrich himself and his family.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of at least 27 years, which likely would have amounted to a life term and one that defense attorneys called unprecedented.

Mr. Jefferson's defense attorneys, who had hoped their client's sentence would be less than 10 years, have said they will appeal his conviction. In seeking leniency, they pointed out that Mr. Jefferson ascended from humble beginnings to "the nation's finest educational institutions and its highest corridors of power."

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, suggested a stiff penalty was in order. "Mr. Jefferson's repeated attempts to sell his office caused significant damage to the public's trust in our elected leaders," he said. "This sentence will begin to repair that damage and to restore that trust."

Mr. Jefferson's seven-week trial included video and audio tapes of him meeting with a federal informant at Washington, D.C., restaurants. Prosecutors said he used his congressional status to concoct plans that would help pay college tuition for his daughters. Mr. Jefferson served on a trade subcommittee and is alleged to have shaken down businessmen who came to his office seeking help with African deals.

The most notorious episode in the saga involved $100,000 in cash that prosecutors said Mr. Jefferson intended to use to bribe the vice president of Nigeria in Washington. He had hoped the money would help pave the way for a telecommunications deal that would have been lucrative for the congressman's family, prosecutors said.

Most of that money was found wrapped in foil in Mr. Jefferson's freezer in a 2005 raid of his Washington home by the Federal Bureau of investigation. Prosecutors said the Nigerian vice president left town before Mr. Jefferson could deliver the payment to him.

Defense attorneys portrayed Mr. Jefferson as possibly unethical but not a criminal, and said he was a victim of an over-aggressive prosecution aimed at "bagging a congressman." They said Mr. Jefferson was entrapped by investigators who wired the informant to try to nab him.

Write to Dionne Searcey at

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A5

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