Government Moves to Expedite Jefferson Trial

Posted April 11, 2008 at 3:24pm

The government has asked a federal court to expedite consideration of Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) request to dismiss the counts of wire fraud in his corruption trial.

The 16-count indictment against Jefferson, which was filed by the Justice Department in June 2007, alleges that the nine-term Congressman offered and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in an effort to facilitate business deals with African nations.

In a request filed Thursday with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the government argued that expediting consideration of Jefferson’s motion would allow for the consolidation of appeals if a decision was considered adverse and appealable by Jefferson.

Bundling the appeals, the government argued, will limit the length of time the trial, which was originally scheduled to start in January, will be delayed.

“The government’s intent is, first and foremost, one of avoidance of delay in the various appellate forums so that this case can be brought to trial as efficiently and expeditiously as possible,” wrote prosecutors, according to the motion.

Jefferson’s attorneys filed a Sept. 7, 2007, motion requesting that the federal court dismiss charges that the Congressman defrauded citizens of their right to his “honest services” on the basis that House rules cited in the indictment are too vague to support criminal prosecution.

Jefferson’s attorneys also argued that the activities described in the indictment do not impact his official duties as a Congressman because they “relate to efforts to assist private entities seeking projects in Africa through contacts with African governments and businesses.

“Attempts to influence African officials or businesspersons do not involve or interfere with a Congressman’s performance of his official duties or breach the fiduciary duties he owes the American public,” they contended.