FBI agent says former Rep. William Jefferson tried to hide documents
by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Thursday July 09, 2009, 11:08 AM
ALEXANDRIA, VA. - The federal corruption trial of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson continued today with an FBI agent testifying that the nine-term Democrat tried to hide some documents during the search of his New Orleans home on Aug. 3, 2005.
Special Agent Stacey Kent said she and other agents had come to Jefferson's Marengo Street House about 10 a.m. to execute a search warrant and question the congressman. She said at one point Jefferson asked for a copy of the subpoena, which she watched him take and fold in with other papers. She said he then tucked the documents under his elbow.
Kent said Jefferson then said he was moving to a more comfortable spot in a nearby room, where she watched him sit down in a recliner and slip the papers into a bag. Kent said she told Jefferson that she would need to see the papers, but that he told her that it was only the subpoena. She persisted and he eventually turned over the papers, which included a fax from B.K. Son, whose name was listed on the government search warrant as material subject to seizure by the FBI. Son has since been identified as Byeong Son of New Jersey, a onetime president and chief technology officer for iGate Inc.
Vernon Jackson, the founder and CEO of iGate Inc., pleaded guilty in May 2006 to two bribery-related charges. Jackson said in his plea documents that he funneled more than $400,000 to Jefferson, mostly to a company controlled by his family, in return for his help getting Internet and cable TV contracts in Nigeria and Ghana. Jackson is serving a prison sentence and testified earlier in Jefferson's trial.
Kent said the fax was then collected as evidence. In the 16-count indictment against him, Jefferson is charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to hide the fax. Defense attorneys have said that it was an inadvertent act; Jefferson had the fax in his hand and unintentionally put it with the subpoena.
Defense attorney Amy Jackson also pointed out today that the subpoena Jefferson received gave him time to turn over the documents, meaning that he did not immediately have to surrender the fax from Son.
Jefferson also is charged with bribery and fraud in connection with what prosecutors say were schemes to funnel money to companies controlled by his family in exchange for using his influence to help iGate and others land contracts in Western Africa. Jefferson has said he was acting a private businessman.
The jury this morning also heard from FBI Special Agent Lisa Horner who testified about contracts in which the Jefferson family would be paid for helping Global Environmental Energy Corp. market garbage recycling incinerators in Africa and elsewhere.
Horner said the contract indicate that the Jefferson family would be paid 25 percent of 75 percent of the profits for each incinerator sold for the life of the contract. The family would get a bonus for incinerators sold in New Orleans, receiving 25 percent of 100 percent of those. Records show that the Port of New Orleans agreed to buy an incinerator from the company, but it was never built.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Amy Jackson, Horner did agree that Jefferson cooperated fully with the FBI agents while they searched his home in New Orleans. Jackson said Jefferson went so far as to find a locksmith to help open a safe for which he had lost the combination.
The search of Jefferson's Marengo Street house came on the same day that agents also raided his home in Washington, D.C., where they recovered $90,000 in marked bills stored in his freezer. Prosecutors earlier showed a videotape of Jefferson accepting the cash from Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody, who was acting a cooperating witness. Investigators say the money was intended as a bribe for Atiku Abubakar, then vice president of Nigeria, to help iGate land a contract in that country.
In the afternoon session, prosecutors shifted focus from iGate to Jefferson's dealings with Arkel International and Arkel Sugar, two Baton Rouge companies.
George Knost, president of Arkel Internatonal, testified that he had a meeting in the fall of 2000, with Jefferson, the governor of a Nigerian state, the congressman's brother Mose Jefferson and Renee Gill Pratt, then a state representative and a friend of Mose Jefferson.
Knost said the meeting was to discuss a sugar plant Arkel hoped to build in Nigeria. After the meeting, in the parking lot of the company's Baton Rouge office, Knost said the congressman told him that Arkel would need to hire Mose as a consultant. He said the demand was later repeated during a December dinner in New Orleans.
It was "very clear prerequisite" to get Jefferson's assistance with the Nigeria deal, Knost said.
Lead prosecutor Mark Lytle asked Knost what the consequence would be for his not hiring Mose.
Knost said he would expect Congressman to "give no assistance" in that event.