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Jefferson Files Appeal, Likely Delaying Start of Trial

In a move likely to delay the start of his trial next week, Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) lawyers filed an appeal Wednesday aimed at dismissing the wide-ranging charges of bribery against the Congressman.

Jefferson’s attorneys, led by Robert Trout of Trout Cacheris, appealed a Feb. 6 decision by Judge T.S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia that kept the bribery charges intact.

The trial was scheduled to begin on Feb. 25, but the appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit may stop that. Ellis had yet to officially postpone the trial date as of midday Thursday. However, in a Feb. 6 order, he postponed the prosecution’s obligation to release evidence to the defense until Jefferson decided whether to appeal.

Jefferson’s attorneys had argued that the 16 counts of bribery filed against Jefferson for allegedly using his official position to promote business deals in Africa had violated the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Jefferson’s attorneys argued that the case should be dismissed because the charges are based on protected legislative materials. They contended they need to review the testimony provided to the grand jury in order to determine whether it included privileged information.

But Ellis disagreed, arguing that that interpretation of the law was overly broad. Ellis is still considering other motions to dismiss evidence they claim was tainted during an August 2005 search of the Congressman’s New Orleans home.

— Rachel Van Dongen

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