The William Jefferson Chronicles

Feds push for $478,000 forfeiture from William Jefferson
By Bruce Alpert, Times-Picayune
October 26, 2009, 10:12AM

In a new filing, the Justice Department says today that the federal government is entitled to $478,153 in forfeitures from former Rep. William Jefferson despite his August bankruptcy filing three weeks after a jury found him guilty of 11 corruption charges.

In such criminal cases, the prosecutors said, courts have ruled that the government is "entitled to every penny" a court determines should be forfeited as ill-gotten gains from illegal acts.

Jefferson and his wife, Andrea, have recently filed documents saying that the couple had monthly income of $30,967 in August, including Andrea's earnings of $6,134 through her administrative job at Southern University, pension benefits of $3,791; $5,152 from sales of books and gaming earnings of $14,600.

William Jefferson has written two books that are for sale through online sellers and the New Orleans Democrat's Web site. The source of the gaming income isn't disclosed in the filing.
Translated to a yearly basis, the reported monthly income would bring in more than $371,000 a year, though the bankruptcy filing indicates monthly rental for space in his New Orleans home dropped since August from $1,290 a month to $400 with a change in tenants.

In asking Judge T.S. Ellis III to disregard the bankruptcy filing, the Justice Department says it runs contrary to his earlier pre-trial ruling in which the judge froze some of Jefferson's assets so that there would be money to pay any court judgments.

"In effect, defendant Jefferson's filing of the bankruptcy petition could be viewed as an attempt to violate this court's prior restraining order enjoining him from taking any actions affecting his interests in those assets," according to the Justice Department brief filed by the chief Jefferson prosecutor Mark Lytle.

In the filing, Lytle suggests the government also would look at getting access to assets generally off limits in bankruptcy filings, including the $380,000 Jefferson reported in his congressional thrift savings plan as of Sept. 11.

Trustee Michael Chiasson in New Orleans Bankruptcy Court said earlier this month that Jefferson and his wife may have exceeded statutory income standards for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and therefore may have to seek financial relief under stricter terms or be barred entirely from bankruptcy law protection.

Ellis, a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., has slated sentencing for Jefferson on Nov. 13. Prosecutors are likely to ask for more than 20 years in prison. Jefferson's defense team, which is owed more than $5.7 million, according to the former congressman's bankruptcy proceeding, is likely to request a far more lenient sentence. His lawyers are expected to file an appeal for a new trial after sentencing, arguing that among other issues that Judge Ellis erred by not allowing the jury to hear that an FBI agent assigned to the case had a sexual relationship with the government informant who wore a wire to record conversations with Jefferson.

Jefferson, who served nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, was convicted Aug. 5 of soliciting bribes, money laundering, depriving citizens of honest services as a member of Congress and turning his congressional office into a racketeering enterprise. All the transactions involved efforts by U.S. business officials to get help promoting projects in Western Africa.

Jefferson was acquitted on charges of obstruction of justice, violating the Foreign Corrupt Services Act and three honest services counts.

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