Closing arguments may be delayed in former Rep. William Jefferson's trial
by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Monday July 27, 2009, 3:53 PM
ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- The judge in the corruption trial of former Rep. William Jefferson said today that he will likely push closing arguments to Wednesday, leaving Tuesday to deal with some of the remaining legal issues still pending.
Judge T.S. Ellis III had originally indicated that the closing arguments would be Tuesday with the jury getting the case later that day or Wednesday. But Ellis said this afternoon that to make sure that both sides can be heard in a single day, he is considering pushing that back until Wednesday.
Each side will be limited to two and a-half hours.
Jefferson, a Democrat who served nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before being defeated in December, is facing a 16-count federal indictment that accuses him of seeking payments to his family in exchange for his influence as a congressman to help American businesses land deals in Africa. Jefferson has pleaded innocent and said that his dealings were all private and did not involve his official office.
Ellis and attorneys for both sides still need to work out guidelines for the closing statements and the judge is considering a motion from the defense to toss out 15 of the 16 charges, which is highly unlikely.
Ellis, however, did indicate today that he has some questions about an obstruction of justice charge against Jefferson that accuses him of trying to hide documents during a search of his New Orleans home by FBI agents in August 2005.
The judge noted that the documents, a Fax from one of companies Jefferson was working with, were recovered by an FBI agent who has testified that Jefferson tried to hide the documents in a bag.
Under federal criminal procedures, a judge is governed by the following guideline: If "viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt" the charge is not dismissed.
Ellis and the attorneys were still meeting this afternoon.