The William Jefferson Chronicles

4th Circuit upholds corruption indictment of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson

by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune

Wednesday November 12, 2008, 1:10 PM

WASHINGTON -- Acting with unusual speed, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today refused Rep. William Jefferson's request to throw out most of the 16 corruption charges setting the stage for a trial in 2009.

Jefferson can appeal the ruling by the Richmond, Va. based court to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could prevent a trial early next year.

There was no immediate comment from Jefferson's lawyers.

In the ruling, a three-judge panel for the 4th Circuit said that even if the grand jury that indicted him heard testimony about Jefferson's congressional activities, in possible violation of the Speech or Debate clause of the Constitution, that isn't sufficient to overturn most of the federal criminal indictment against him.

"The principle of grand jury independence is firmly rooted
and jealously protected in our federal system of justice," wrote Justice Robert King in a 24-page opinion that was signed by himself and the two other judges. "Because it is an independent investigative body, the federal courts have consistently accorded a grand jury 'wide latitude.'"

Jefferson, who is running for a 10th term in a Dec. 6 general election, is accused of bribery, racketeering and other charges as part of scheme the Justice Department says involved payments to family controlled businesses in return for his help winning contracts, mostly in Western Africa. He has maintained his innocence.

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