Top court rejects appeal of ex-Louisiana congressman

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 26, 2012 10:26 AM
Top court rejects appeal of ex-Louisiana congressman

By Jonathan Stempel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the appeal of former Louisiana congressman William Jefferson, who had challenged his 2009 conviction on multiple charges of bribery and money laundering.

Jefferson's case had gained notoriety after FBI agents found $90,000 wrapped in foil and stored in a freezer at the home of the former Democratic lawmaker.

Prosecutors accused Jefferson of soliciting millions of dollars in bribes from companies while using his office to broker ventures such as telecommunications transactions in Ghana and Nigeria, oil concessions in Equatorial Guinea, investments in a Nigerian sugar plant and satellite transmission contracts in Botswana, Equatorial Guinea and Democratic Republic of Congo.

A federal jury found Jefferson guilty of soliciting bribes, money laundering and participation in a racketeering scheme. In March, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, had upheld 10 of 11 guilty counts. Jefferson, now 65, is serving a 13-year prison term.

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Jefferson said the 4th Circuit should not have upheld his conviction premised on his being influenced in how he performed "official acts," saying that such acts should be confined to "the formal legislative process" or at most to "governmental decision-making."

The U.S. government opposed Jefferson's appeal, calling it a "cramped" interpretation of the relevant bribery law.

Jefferson lost his bid for a 10th term in Congress in 2008, which came after his indictment. He is serving his sentence in a low-security prison in Beaumont, Texas, and is not expected to be released prior to 2023, federal prison records show.

The case is Jefferson v. U.S., U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-111.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Howard Goller and Eric Walsh)