Congressman Convicted of Corruption; 90K Found in Freezer
Former U.S. Representative William Jefferson of Louisiana was convicted on 11 counts of corruption charges on Wednesday. Perhaps the most striking detail of the case was the $90,000 cash that was found in his freezer.
Jefferson, 62, initially faced 16 corruption charges, but was ultimately convicted on four counts of bribery, three counts of money laundering, three counts of wire fraud and one count of racketeering. He was acquitted of the 5 additional charges including obstruction of justice.
On June 4, 2007, the former congressman was indicted by a federal grand jury almost two years after federal agents found $90,000 cash stashed away in his freezer. Officials say the cash was a part of an investigation in which an FBI informant captured a shady transaction on video.
Jefferson pleaded not guilty to all charges. He faces a maximum sentence of 150 years imprisonment. Sentencing has been set for October 30.
After five days of deliberating, prosecution filed a motion to take Jefferson into custody. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis denied the request, ruling he posed no flight risk.
According to CNN reports, U.S. Attorney Dana Boente declared the verdicts proves that “no person, not even a congressman, is above the law.”
“We always thought that a powerful piece of evidence in this case was $90,000 in a freezer,” she said when asked why the jury ruled in the prosecution’s favor.
Jefferson’s lawyer, Robert Trout has already expressed his intentions to appeal. “We’re very disappointed that the jury disagreed with us,” Trout said.
Asked how he was holding up, a seemingly stoic Jefferson smiled briefly and answered, “I’m holding up,” before walking away.
Jefferson was accused of accepting hundreds and of thousands of dollars in bribes for himself and family between 2001 and 2005. It is believed that Jefferson used his congressional status to solicit funds for promoting products and services in Africa, particularly Nigeria.
The cash that was found in his freezer was used to obtain a warrant to search his office in May of 2006. Pictures of the open freezer shows bills wrapped in aluminum foil and stashed in frozen food boxes.
Jefferson is Harvard Law School alumni and represented the Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District which encompasses most of the New Orleans. He held office for 18 years before he lost his seat to Anh Joseph Cao in 2008.
“This is a difficult day for the people of New Orleans and Louisiana, but now we can turn the page on a negative past to focus on a positive future,” Cao said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Jefferson and his family during this time.”