The Trial of William Jefferson (D-LA), A First in Jurisprudence

From the diaries by Erick.

Just a reminder: the Defendant in this case was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. The “honorable explanation” that he has promised since the $90,000 showed up in his freezer in 2005 turns out to be, “I didn’t take that money with the intention of bribing anyone. I took it with the intention of keeping it myself.”

From the Times-Picayune:

William Jefferson corruption case marks a legal first

ALEXANDRIA, VA. — Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson [D-LA] is the first and only U.S. public official to be charged under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act since it was enacted in 1977.

Thanks, Congressman, for bringing that proud distinction to Louisiana!

The complex case against Jefferson is not riding on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges. The 16 counts against the former nine-term Democratic congressman from New Orleans also include conspiracy to solicit bribes by a public official and deprive the citizens of the honest service of their elected representative by wire fraud. He also is charged with racketeering, obstruction of justice and money laundering.

But the charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act are novel, and they speak directly to the $100,000 in marked FBI dollars that Jefferson accepted from Mody in a Virginia parking lot on July 30, 2005. Of that money, $90,000 ended up in his freezer, $5,000 was loaned to an aide in financial difficulty and the remaining $5,000 was returned to the FBI.

Jefferson’s defense is arguing that he is not guilty of the bribery charges because he was acting as a private individual and not committing official acts as a member of Congress. But Facundus points out, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, that makes no difference.

According to Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University who has been following the case, Jefferson’s best defense against the Foreign Corrupt Practices charge is that he never had any intention of bribing Abubakar, that he simply took the money from Mody and was using Mody and Abubakar “like marks in a con game.”

That’s not a pretty defense, but he is not charged with grifting Mody.

In his opening statement, lead defense counsel Robert Trout indicated that Jefferson was manipulated into accepting the money by Mody and that he did “something stupid,” and took it.

To be guilty of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charge, Cassin said, “there has to be a payment or a promise of a payment,” and, he speculated, if Jefferson testifies he may simply say, “I didn’t know what I was going to do with the money. I was trying to make up my mind what to do, but I wasn’t going to pay it as a bribe.”