Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana was convicted Wednesday on 11 of the 16 corruption charges against him.
Jefferson, a 62-year-old Democrat, was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 4, 2007, on corruption charges, about two years after federal agents said they found $90,000 in his freezer. Authorities said the cash was part of a payment in marked bills from an FBI informant in a transaction captured on video. Jefferson had pleaded not guilty. The jury convicted him on four counts of bribery, four counts of racketeering and three counts of wire fraud. He was acquitted on five other counts including wire fraud and obstruction of justice. Jefferson had faced a maximum sentence of 235 years in prison if convicted on all counts. The verdict came on the fifth day of jury deliberations. Jefferson was accused of using his congressional clout between 2001 and 2005 to solicit and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for himself and his family in exchange for promoting products and services in Africa, especially Nigeria, and elsewhere. The information on the cash discovered in Jefferson’s Washington home in August 2005 was revealed in an affidavit used to obtain a warrant to search Jefferson’s office in May 2006. Descriptions from the heavily redacted affidavit and pictures of the open freezer show bills wrapped in foil and tucked into frozen food containers, including a box for pie crusts and another for veggie burgers. FBI agents told a judge the money was part of a $100,000 payment delivered by an informant in the bribery investigation, which led to guilty pleas by a Kentucky businessman and a former Jefferson aide. Jefferson, who graduated from Harvard Law School, represented Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of the New Orleans area. He held office for 18 years, or nine terms, before he lost his House seat in the December 2008 election. As a representative, he served on the House Ways and Means Committee’s subcommittee on trade and on the Budget Committee, and he co-chaired the caucus on Africa Trade and Investment as well as the caucus on Nigeria.