FEBRUARY 07, 2008
A federal judge has rejected yet another desperate defense argument from a corrupt lawmaker who claims that his multiple-count bribery indictment unconstitutionally infringed on his privileges as a congressman.
Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson, appropriately nicknamed “Dollar Bill” for stashing a $90,000 cash bribe in his freezer, has turned to desperate measures since he got busted on an FBI surveillance tape accepting a $100,000 cash bribe. Federal agents subsequently found $90,000 of the money wrapped in aluminum foil and stashed in the freezer of his Washington D.C. home.
The shameful incident was the culmination of a 16-month federal investigation into Jefferson’s solicitation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during his nine terms in the House of Representatives. The lawmaker used his influence on a powerful House Africa Caucus to illegally perform official acts for nearly a dozen companies in return for hefty bribes.
Ever since Jefferson was indicted in the bribery scandal last summer, he has played a number of rather bizarre defense cards that seem to support his guilt and help illustrate true desperateness on the part of his legal team.
First, the Ivy League graduate legislator, who is black, played the race card and asked a judge to move his corruption trial from the jurisdiction (Virginia) where he was caught taking money on video because there aren’t enough blacks for the jury pool.
A few weeks later, Jefferson asked a judge to suppress incriminating testimony he made to the FBI because he was not advised by agents of his right to remain silent and right to speak with an attorney, even though he is himself an attorney and should have known not to speak to agents.
This week Jefferson argued that most of the charges against him should be thrown out because grand jury testimony given by his staffers violated the Constitution’s speech and debate clause that protects legislative activity from intervention by other branches of government.
In rejecting the argument, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis ruled that Jefferson’s interpretation was overly broad and would prevent a member of Congress from ever being formally accused of a crime associated with their legislative work. “It’s not an expansive immunity, the judge said. It’s a focused immunity.”
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