Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jefferson Convicted

The verdict is in for former Rep. William Jefferson, a Democrat from New Orleans.

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.

In a six-week trial before Judge T.S. Ellis, prosecutors contended that from 2000 to 2005, Mr. Jefferson sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a dozen companies involved in oil, communications, sugar and other businesses, often for projects in Africa.

In return, prosecutors contended, the then-Congressman used his position as a member of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee to promote the companies’ ventures — without disclosing his own financial stakes in the deals.

By all accounts, Mr. Jefferson got a fair trial, so if you’re expecting me to make excuses for him and claim that he got railroaded because he was [fill in the blank], you’ve come to the wrong place. For me, party affiliation stops at the courthouse door, and I’m not going to defend someone just because they’re a Democrat. In fact, I’m tougher on them not only because they’ve betrayed their public trust, but also because he is supposed to represent ideas and philosophies that I share, and I don’t want to be affiliated with convicted criminals, thank you very much.