Jefferson Enters Not Guilty Plea

Posted June 8, 2007 at 10:15am

Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) pleaded not guilty Friday morning to soliciting nearly $500,000 in bribes from businessmen to promote their interests in Africa.

The Louisiana Democrat was arraigned at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. He was released on $100,000 bond. The trial date was set for Jan. 16, 2008, CNN reported.

“I am innocent,” Jefferson said emphatically in a statement outside the courthouse. “We are going to fight.”

“This is not who we are,” he said of his family, who allegedly accepted money from corporations established by Jefferson to receive bribes. “This is not what I have done.”

Jefferson decried what he called an unfair fight in which he would be faced with the “unlimited resources” of the government and its “attempt to break one psychologically and financially.”

“We will sell every stick of furniture in our house … to clear our name,” he said. “It’s no time to give up.”

On June 4, a federal grand jury indicted Jefferson on 16 counts of soliciting bribes, racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. On Thursday, the government froze $472,000 in Jefferson’s assets at various banks.

The government investigation into Jefferson’s alleged use of his Congressional office to enrich himself and family members has lasted two years. A parallel court case into the seizure of paper and electronic records from his Rayburn office is still under way.

Jefferson resigned his only committee assignment on the Small Business panel this past week, and a House ethics inquiry into his indictment was opened.

In his statement Friday, Jefferson noted he had never had a traffic ticket lodged against him, let alone an ethics inquiry.

— Rachel Van Dongen