Court Refuses to Dismiss Jefferson Case

Posted November 12, 2008 at 12:58pm

Updated 2:22 p.m.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) on Wednesday, refusing to dismiss a federal case against him and ruling the government did not violate the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause in its indictment.

“In these circumstances, we are satisfied that the district court, in conducting the pretrial proceedings, accorded Congressman Jefferson every substantive and procedural protection to which he was entitled,” the decision states.

Jefferson is charged in a 16-count indictment with offering and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to promote business ventures in West African nations.

Attorneys for the Louisiana lawmaker asserted that the grand jury was provided with evidence of Jefferson’s legislative activities — a violation of the Speech or Debate Clause — biasing the jury’s decision to indict him in mid-2007.

In particular, Jefferson raised concerns over the testimony of three staffers, including former chief of staff Lionel Collins, former aide Melvin Spence and current aide Stephanie Butler.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia rejected Jefferson’s first attempt to dismiss the indictment in February.

Although a trial date in the case had been set for Dec. 2, that schedule was suspended pending the outcome of the appeals case. It is unclear when it will be rescheduled.

Despite facing federal corruption charges, Jefferson defeated former television personality Helena Moreno in a Democratic runoff on Nov. 4, and has a good chance of winning re-election in the heavily Democratic second district in December.