|Feds oppose Jefferson bid for delay|
FBI wants access to seized material
Friday, July 14, 2006
By Bruce Alpert
WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department on Thursday urged a federal judge to reject Rep. William Jefferson's request to stay an order allowing FBI agents to review material taken during a raid at the congressman's office, saying Jefferson's constituents have an interest in a "prompt and final determination" on whether he "accepted and paid out bribes."
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan on Monday rejected arguments by Jefferson's attorneys that the May 20-21 raid of the New Orleans Democrat's Capitol Hill office, the first ever on a congressional office, violated the separation of powers. He ruled that the Justice Department could begin looking at the material, which included the computer hard drives of Jefferson and his staff.
On Tuesday, Jefferson's attorney, Robert Trout, asked Hogan to stay his ruling pending their appeal of his decision. He called the raid "unprecedented, unnecessary, and unconstitutional." The bipartisan leadership of the House also objected, contending that the FBI wouldn't even allow a representative of the House counsel's office to observe the raid.
Jefferson has said he has an honorable explanation for the allegations against him, and predicted that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
In a brief filed Thursday, Justice Department attorneys said that even an expedited appeal by Jefferson to a three-judge District of Columbia circuit court would "likely take months to resolve."
Generally, the Justice Department said, the public has a strong psychological and moral interest in swiftly bringing people accused of major crimes to justice.
"The principle applies with special force here, not only because of the uniquely public nature of the wide-ranging international bribery offenses under investigation, but because 16 months have passed since the investigation began into Representative Jefferson's involvement in these schemes," the Justice Department attorneys said.
The Justice Department says it is investigating allegations that Jefferson promoted the sale of telecommunications equipment and services by a Kentucky firm in Nigeria and Ghana in return for payments of stock and cash to companies controlled by his family. The FBI has said it is also looking into allegations that Jefferson bribed a foreign official, although $90,000 of the $100,000 given the congressman by a cooperating witness allegedly to bribe the vice president of Nigeria was later found in the congressman's home freezer in Washington.
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Bruce Alpert can be reached at email@example.com or (202) 383-7861.