Defense attorneys for Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) sparred with the government during a nearly five-hour hearing Wednesday over whether documents had been properly collected and Jefferson lawfully interviewed during a search of his New Orleans home in August 2005.
FBI Special Agent Lisa Horner testified that she chose to photograph, rather than physically remove, several documents that do not pertain directly to Jefferson’s business dealings in Africa that are the subject of a 16-count corruption indictment filed against the Congressman in June.
Horner said she was “very confident” that these documents pertained to a crime.
Jefferson is charged with using his position to assist companies doing business in Africa, in exchange for payments to members of his family.
Jefferson was present for the hearing before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis at the courthouse for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria.
The Congressman appeared calm and took notes throughout the proceedings, but he did not speak.
The court on Wednesday was considering arguments on three defense motions to suppress evidence in the case.
The defense, led by attorney Robert Trout, is seeking to suppress a voluntary interview of Jefferson by FBI agents at his New Orleans home and various photographic evidence obtained there that the defense says was unlawfully seized.
The court today will hear additional arguments on those motions as well as arguments on a defense motion to suppress evidence taken from Jefferson’s Rayburn Building office during the FBI’s May 2006 raid. Jefferson is expected to testify during those proceedings.
Under questioning by Trout, FBI Special Agent Daniel Evans said he did not advise Jefferson to his right to an attorney or his right to remain silent before interviewing him for two and a half hours in the living room of his New Orleans home on Aug. 3, 2005.
Evans said Jefferson was not advised of his rights because he was not under arrest.
Prior to the agents’ search of his home, the Congressman — wearing a white T-shirt and khaki pants but no shoes — was cordial and cooperative after agents arrived unannounced at 7 a.m., Evans said.
Evans testified that the conversation continued until another FBI agent asked Jefferson about $100,000 that he allegedly received from an FBI informant to be used to bribe an African official.
At that point, Jefferson said, “I don’t want to speak to you guys anymore,” Evans testified.
The FBI agents then showed Jefferson a video of himself receiving the money from the FBI informant. The agents later found $90,000 in Jefferson’s freezer.
“He looked very dejected at the sight of that,” Evans testified. “What a waste, what a waste,” Evans recalled Jefferson saying.
Jefferson queried the agents about how best to protect his reputation and asked whether he needed an attorney, Evans said. The Congressman also was concerned about whether the videotape and search warrant would be made public.
Trout implied that agents were so zealous in their questioning of Jefferson that they even followed him when he went to the bathroom. “Did you tell him you were going to watch him go to the bathroom?” Trout asked Evans.
“I don’t recall that,” Evans replied.
The court issued no ruling on the motions Wednesday.
Paul Singer contributed to this report.