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August 5, 2009

Another former member of Congress now has to worry about the federal sentencing guidelines

As detailed in this New York Times piece, another prominent politician who once only worried about what federal sentencing rules meant for others now has to worry a lot about what these rules might mean for him:

Former Representative William J. Jefferson was convicted Wednesday afternoon of using his office to try to enrich himself and relatives through a web of bribes and payoffs involving business ventures in Africa.

A federal court jury in Alexandria, Va., deliberated for five days before finding Mr. Jefferson, 62, a New Orleans Democrat who served in Congress for 18 years until being defeated in 2008, guilty of 11 of 16 counts of bribery-related crimes.  The jurors thus rejected defense assertions that Mr. Jefferson’s business-promotion activities in Africa did not qualify as “official acts” under public corruption laws. Mr. Jefferson faces a long prison term, unless his conviction is overturned on appeal.

In a six-week trial before Judge T.S. Ellis, prosecutors said that from 2000 to 2005, Mr. Jefferson sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a dozen companies involved in oil, communications, sugar and other businesses, often for projects in Africa.  In return, prosecutors said, the Mr. Jefferson used his position as a member of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee to promote the companies’ ventures without disclosing his own financial stakes in the deals.

Mr. Jefferson led official delegations to Africa, wrote letters to American and foreign officials and had members of his staff promote ventures in Nigeria, Ghana and Equatorial Guinea in which he had a financial interest, prosecutors said. While he sought millions of dollars in bribes, Mr. Jefferson may have actually received less than $400,000, the prosecutors said.

I do not know enough about the ins-and-outs of the applicable guideline to make a quick guess at what kind of sentencing range Jefferson might be facing, but I suspect the government is not going to be in a mood to go easy on him with its recommendation.

August 5, 2009 at 07:15 PM | Permalink


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His lawyers should check out the latest edition of "171 Easy Mitigating Factors,' but I'm not sure that even that will help.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Aug 5, 2009 7:19:06 PM

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