Tales from the Trail

Prosecutors urge throwing the book at convicted ex-lawmaker

November 9, 2009

A U.S. judge on Friday will sentence former Congressman William “Cold Cash” Jefferson after he was convicted on multiple bribery and money laundering charges. And prosecutors want to throw the book at him.

TheCRIME-JEFFERSON/ former Louisiana lawmaker faces between 27 and 33 years in prison according to federal sentencing guidelines and prosecutors said that sounds good to them. Authorities discovered $90,000 in Jefferson’s freezer during their investigation.

“As the defendant stands convicted of some of the most serious corrupt schemes uncovered in recent history, he is without remorse and has yet to accept responsibility for his actions,” according to a memorandum filed with the court late Friday.

“A severe sentence would send the message to the public that such egregious and criminal behavior will not be tolerated in our society,” the prosecutors counseled. They also asked that Jefferson, 62, immediately go to prison for fear he would flee the country before his appeals are exhausted.

The ex-congressman was convicted in August on 11 of 16 counts of bribery, racketeering and money laundering. He was accused in 2007 of soliciting millions of dollars in bribes from companies while using his office to broker business deals in Africa.

Jefferson lost re-election last year to Republican Anh “Joseph” Cao — yes, the lone Republican who voted for the Democrats’ health care reform bill that passed the House of Representatives late Saturday. (The district is heavily Democratic and includes most of New Orleans.)

Jefferson acknowledged when he was first charged that he had made mistakes in judgment that he regretted, but denied selling his office or trading official acts for money.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Jefferson after his arraignment in federal court in 2007)

Comments
13 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Maximum jail time! He and his fellow Democrats all deserve jail time for frauding the American Public in numerous ways. His successor Cao is not fit to serve. He is a Democrat and should be labeled as such!

Posted by donald | Report as abusive
 

“A severe sentence would send the message to the public that such egregious and criminal behavior will not be tolerated in our society,”? What rubbish is this? That message shouldn’t be for the public. It should be a warning to those who betray the public trust. Must have been a slip of the tongue. Prosecutors posing in front of the cameras in anticipation of a political future? They want to be seen punishing elected criminals so they can get elected to public office and join the rest of the un-prosecuted elected criminals?

Posted by tom davis | Report as abusive
 

This guy was just a bit more direct than his more subtle counterparts. It doesn’t matter whether he was a democrat or republican. Consider the fact that Joe Liberman has stated he will use his position to keep the health bill from coming to a vote if it contains a public option.

As a person who is charged with securing the interests of the citizenry he has blatantly decided that you and I are not worth a vote because business would be hurt.

To be sure William Jefferson is a crook. But his actions are low on the scale when you consider what the real criminals are doing. They still have their seats in the house and senate.

 

When are prosecutors going to go after the other 434 members of Congress?

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive
 

So Donald, considering your venom you would be in favor of investigating and prosecuting the crimes of the previous administration, at all levels, as well right?
If the crooked Dems must go then the crooked Reps must go right?
Warning: this is a trick question and there is only one correct answer. Right?

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive
 

Eric. I don’t agree with the blanket statement by Donald and I don’t agree with your “trick” question.

In the case a Jefferson, it isn’t a matter of speculation. He had the goods in his freezer. There is nothing to do now but prosecute him.

in the case of the previous administration, there is no evidence any crime was committed. But this administration should be careful what they ask for. What goes around comes around. I think you will find at the end of Obama’s time in office, that he will likely have the most corrupt administration to ever hold office.

I know you will disagree with me and that’s fine. I am also sure that if I am proven right, then you will disagree that this administration should be investigated by the next administration……….

It’s quite a nasty web we weave, isn’t it?

Posted by TC | Report as abusive
 

Eric,

You do make a good point. But perhaps you might want to reconsider what constitutes crime when it comes to law makers.

They are charged with securing the interests of the citizenry. That means that when ever possible, the law enacted must give advantage to citizens. And private business concerns take a secondary position to individual rights and responsibilities.

There is perhaps no “technical” evidence of crime. But then again didn’t the past administration conduct illegal surveillance on it’s citizens under the justification of identifying terrorist suspects?

When it was found that Bin Laden was in Afghanistan didn’t we instead invade Iraq? Did the last president not spill the blood of our youth to wage a war that had nothing to do with the attacks on American soil?

This is a high crime against our citizens. Many of our children died in a war that was not waged to protect us. Now we are left with a half hearted war in Afghanistan for which there is no solution. We were supposed to have been there only for Bin Laden. Instead our leaders created a new pretext to keep spilling blood in a effort to control a country that holds ideologies opposite our own.

Our job was to get Bin Laden and bring him to American justice. Bush on the other hand, acted like a kid who got punched in the eye by a bully and went home and beat the dog up instead.

To be sure the last administration and current congress are rife with corruption. It is the job of the citizenry to watch government and keep it honest. Instead we fall for the BS they spew in our faces every day.

 

Bribery is bribery, and there’s no excusing it in our public officials. But in the “punishment fits the crime” department, there’s something wrong with the proposed sentence of William “Cold Cash” Jefferson when you compare it that handed down to Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

“Cunningham resigned from the House on November 28, 2005, after pleading guilty to accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes and underreporting his income for 2004. He pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion. On March 3, 2006, he received a sentence of eight years and four months in prison and an order to pay $1.8 million in restitution.”

That’s 100 months of prison time for $2,400,000 in bribes (and $1.8m to be restituted, but let’s set that aside for a moment) or one month for every $24,000 in bribes.

Now get a load of how long federal prosecutors want to put away “Cold Cash” Jefferson:

“Federal prosecutors are seeking the harshest prison sentence ever handed out to a member of Congress for former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), arguing that his “stunning betrayal of public trust” warrants what could be a life sentence for the long-time lawmaker.
The Justice Department is asking a federal judge in Alexandria, Va, to lock up Jefferson, 62, for up to 33 years, according to documents filed by prosecutors on Friday.”

Surely “Cold Cash” Jefferson’s bribes must be in the tens of millions of dollars, too, right? Wrong:

According to DOJ estimate, these bribery schemes – which involved companies in west Africa – could have netted Jefferson and his family “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Jefferson got $478,000 in bribe money, including $367,500 from Kentucky businessman Vernon Jackson. Jackson himself received a 87-month sentence, or more than seven years.

So Jefferson will get 396 months, if his prosecutors get their way, for $478,000 in bribes — oh, sure there’s lots more he “could have netted” but I bet there was lots more Duke “could have netted” as well.

That’s one month for every $1,207 in bribes.

Not to mention the $90,000 recovered directly from Jefferson’s freezer that hardly needs restituting: it’s in the feds’ hands and has been since seizure.

Of course, Duke’s a Republican, and Jefferson is a Democrat. Everyone knows that Democrats should be punished more severely than Republicans, especially when they are getting bribes from companies wanting to do business with African countries instead of defense contractors protecting American troops. IOKIYAR (It’s OK If You’re A Republican) isn’t just for the law-abiding.

There’s another difference, too, of course. Why does a twenty-fold discrepency seem so familiar? Is bribe-taking by African-American Congressmen the new crack cocaine? Have sentencing disparities by race reached this far into our federal prosecutorial workforce?

Will no one call out this obvious racism?

Posted by Teddy Partridge | Report as abusive
 

Benny. I appreciate your post.

Part of the nasty web we weave has to do with all the democrats (and republicans) who read the same intelligence and agreed to go to war in Iraq. All of them are just as guilty as the president if it was actually known to be false. In my opinion, 20/20 hindsight is a fact of life. But that doesn’t make any of the representatives or the president guilty of a crime.

They all did the best job they could do with the information at their disposal.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive
 

TC your assumption that I would not want the Obama administration investigated at the end of his term, if there was reason, couldn’t be more wrong, nobody should be above the law.
As far as the Bush administration, where there’s smoke there’s fire and the smoldering wreckage of Bush/Cheney has yet to be pulled apart.
Where is the smoke you ask, Plame, the attorney general firings, KBR, Blackwater, illegal wire tapping just for starters. These are the things that grabbed headlines, I shutter to think what will be found when the real digging starts.

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive
 

Every single administration can be investigated and if the current administration and congress want to make political hay out of it, then they will make political hay out of it.

You are to venomous about a specific administration you are beyond rational thought.
You think you know all there is to know about the situations you named that it is cut and dry that crimes were committed. I don’t know one way or the other, but I don’t take what the news media says as gospel. It is a fact the media pounded on the previous administration from the day they took office. That is a proven fact. Go back and read all about it, I did.

But just because you say it is so, doesn’t make it so. Some of those things are open to interpretation and I do not believe they were crimes even if you think they were. Even congress thought a few of those things were good for national security at the time. Yes, even democrats were complicit.

I don’t think congress or this administration will ever go to the lengths you would like to see. It takes too much time, effort and money and they just won’t do it, no matter how much they threaten it. Besides, the current president is having too much trouble getting his agenda through and that is a good thing. I hope nothing he wants get through….nothing. This president makes all other presidents look good.

I know Eric…You are saying to me “screw you!”….

Posted by TC | Report as abusive
 

eric h have you any idea how many congressional democrats are under investigation by the ethics committee?well if they were in considerably better shape they could field two teams in a soccer match,and still have some more sitting on the substitute bench!

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive
 

Good. Jefferson got 13 years in prison (he could have received 30 years). He stood to gain hundreds of millions from his bribery scheme.

Yes brian lee you are correct. There is so much emphasis on the last president, that those stone throwers are forgetting the democrats in congress that congress just ignores. I forgot, congress is controlled by democrats, silly me.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/