Jefferson Seeks Full Review of Case

Posted November 26, 2008 at 2:08pm

Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) filed a petition Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit requesting the full court revisit his case, after a three-judge panel refused to dismiss charges against him in November.

The Louisiana lawmaker had appealed his 2007 federal indictment, asserting that prosecutors violated the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause when they provided the grand jury with evidence of Jefferson’s legislative activities.

The Fourth Circuit panel rejected that argument, however, ruling that even though evidence included the testimony of several Jefferson staffers, that information did not infringe on Speech or Debate protections.

But in their motion for a new hearing, Jefferson’s attorneys assert the panel’s decision does not align with previous rulings on the Speech or Debate Clause and should be reviewed.

“This Court should grant rehearing en banc to address the important constitutional issue of the scope of the protection afforded to a legislator by the Speech or Debate Clause, and to fully consider Congressman Jefferson’s challenge to the evidence heard by the grand jury in this case,” the motion 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.

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 Tuesday, that schedule was terminated pending the outcome of the appeals case. It remains 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 he has a good chance of winning re-election in the heavily Democratic 2nd district in December.