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Corruption Chronicles

Influence Peddling, Not Bribery Says Rep. Jefferson

A federal judge has rejected yet another desperate defense measure proposed by a disgraced Louisiana congressman who made worldwide headlines for stashing a cash bribe in his freezer.

Indicted for accepting more than $500,000 in bribes—including a $100,000 bribe caught on FBI surveillance video—and demanding millions more, nine-term Democrat William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson has offered a variety of outrageous defense theories in an effort to escape justice for years of corruption.

So far, his ridiculous arguments have been struck down by the courts. The latest defeat came this week when Judge T.S. Ellis rejected Jefferson’s assertion that his misdeeds were technically influence peddling and not bribery as federal prosecutors have charged. Based on that theory, Jefferson had asked the judge to dismiss 15 of the 16 counts against him.

His lawyers argued that federal bribery laws apply to a congressman only if a bribe is exchanged for official action like taking votes or sponsoring legislation. In rejecting the argument, Judge Ellis ruled that prosecutors can broadly interpret what constitutes an “official act” under the law.

Jefferson has previously tried to get the charges against him dismissed by claiming that the bribery indictment unconstitutionally infringed on his privileges as a congressman. His attorneys actually argued that charges 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.

Jefferson has also asked the court 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 to an attorney, even though he is himself an attorney and should have known not to speak to agents.

In yet a separate unsuccessful tactic, Jefferson , who is black, played the race card in asking a judge to move his corruption trial from the jurisdiction (Virginia) where he was caught taking the $100,000 bribe on video because there aren’t enough blacks for the jury pool.


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