Ex-Congressman Sentenced to 13 Years Over Graft

Press TV (Tehran), November 14, 2009

A former Louisiana congressman was sentenced to 13 years in prison for abusing his office for financial purposes.

William J. Jefferson, 62, was convicted on August 5 for bribery, racketeering, and illegal business investments.

Jefferson was expected to be sentenced to at least 27 years in prison, as the jury has found him guilty of 11 of 16 counts. However, the sentence turned out to be far less than what was expected by prosecutors.

The investigations started in March 2005. Shortly thereafter at Jefferson’s Washington home, FBI agents found USD 90,000 wrapped in aluminum foil in a freezer, which was believed to be a bribe for a high-level Nigerian official–who later denied being involved.

After a six-week trial the jury concluded that between 2000 and 2005, Jefferson has accepted thousands of dollars in bribes from companies that were involved in oil, sugar, communications and other businesses often for projects in Africa.

He also took advantage of his post on the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee promote the companies’ ventures without revealing his own financial interest in the deals.

Robert P. Trout, Jefferson’s chief lawyer tried to convince jurors that while the business promotion activities were not wise, they did not qualify as “official acts” under public corruption laws, and are therefore not considered a criminal act.

Prosecutors believe that while Jefferson might have sought millions of dollars in bribes, it is possible that he might have actually received less than USD 400,000.

According to The Almanac of American Politics, Jefferson, a Harvard graduate, was the first African American from Louisiana to be elected to Congress since the Black Reconstruction in late 19th century.

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