|Ethics committee resumes investigation of Jefferson|
6/7/2007, 7:46 p.m. CDT
By LARRY MARGASAK
The Associated Press - NOLA.com
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House ethics committee voted Thursday to expand its investigation of indicted Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., to include any subject in a 16-count corruption indictment handed up earlier in the week.
The committee made no mention of possibly expelling Jefferson, even though the House on Tuesday passed a Republican-sponsored resolution directing the panel to report on whether expulsion was warranted.
The ethics committee authorized an investigation of Jefferson last year, and Thursday's vote in closed session reauthorized the probe.
A four-member investigative subcommittee was asked to determine whether Jefferson violated the House's Code of Official conduct or any law, rule, regulation or other standard.
"We are committed to ensuring that proceedings involving Rep. Jefferson are conducted in a fair manner, and in accordance with the processes established by the committee's standing rules and established precedent," said a statement by panel Chairman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio; and senior Republican Doc Hastings of Washington state. The committee has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
The resolution approved by the House, 373-26, directed the committee "to investigate without further delay alleged illegal conduct and violations of House rules by Representative William J. Jefferson and report its findings and recommendations to the House, including a recommendation regarding whether Representative Jefferson should be expelled from the House."
The indictment Monday accused Jefferson of receiving more than $500,000 in bribes and seeking millions more in nearly a dozen separate schemes to enrich himself by using his office to broker business deals in Africa.
The charges came almost two years after investigators raided Jefferson's home in Washington and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer.
The indictment's 16 counts included racketeering, soliciting bribes, wire fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. He faces a possible maximum sentence of 235 years.
Also Thursday, a federal judge froze Jefferson's assets.
The restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III lists two savings accounts with Dryades Savings Bank and Chevy Chase Bank with a combined value of more than $470,000, plus certain stock holdings that Jefferson is barred from liquidating.
Nearly all the cash is in an account belonging to The ANJ Group LLC. The indictment says it is a Louisiana company established in 2001 and controlled by Jefferson's family.
A second, smaller account is under the name W2-IBBS, Limited, which according to the indictment was established in Nigeria and controlled by the informant whose complaints about Jefferson sparked the investigation.
The indictment states that Jefferson demanded an ever larger share of that company — first 5 percent and then finally a 30 percent stake — in exchange for his help brokering a telecommunications deal.
The order also freezes other unspecified accounts controlled by U.S. financial institutions.
A spokeswoman for Jefferson's lawyer, Robert Trout, said the judge's order is being reviewed, and he declined to comment further.
Jefferson is the first U.S. official to face charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits corporate bribery overseas.
In the House probe, Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass. will head the investigation along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. The other members are Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. and Tom Latham, R-Iowa.
Jefferson is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.