|Feds say case against Jefferson lists 2 more bribery schemes|
Posted by The Times-Picayune November 16, 2007
By Bruce Alpert
WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department said Friday that it intends to present evidence of two additional bribery schemes, including one involving efforts to win a contract with NASA, as part of its corruption case against Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans.
In both cases, prosecutors said, Jefferson sought a payoff for relatives in exchange for his help in setting up business deals.
The government listed 11 schemes in its June 4 indictment, which accused the nine-term congressman of bribery, racketeering and violation of the corrupt foreign practices act. The Justice Department is not looking to add any charges to the indictment, but said it plans to use the two new alleged schemes as evidence at the trial, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 16.
In a separate filing Friday, the Justice Department said it planned to offer as an expert witness Abner Mikva, a former Democratic member of Congress from Chicago, former judge and former counsel to President Clinton. It said Mikva will contest defense arguments that Jefferson didn't commit bribery because the government charges deal with private business deals, not official acts of Congress that are at the heart of the bribery statute.
According to the filing, Mikva will testify that constituent services are matters "routinely brought before members in their official capacity." Jefferson's lawyers have argued that Jefferson's help for private companies seeking contracts in West Africa were not part of his official duties -- such as voting, introducing legislation or instigating committee actions.
"Judge Mikva is also expected to opine that membership in certain congressional committees and caucuses, such as House Ways and Means Committee, its subcommittees and various other committees and caucuses, provide the member with influence and access to various foreign government agencies and U.S. government agencies .¤.¤.¥" Jefferson was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus and was chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
Jefferson's attorneys did not immediately respond to the Justice Department filings.
Without naming the companies or individuals involved in the two additional alleged schemes, the Justice Department said that Jefferson, after agreeing to write a letter to NASA on behalf of a "Company H," asked that a relative be hired as a consultant and that the relative receive a commission for certain sales and transactions in West Africa and Central Africa. The company was looking to set up satellite communications businesses in Africa, the Justice Department said.
On or about June 15, 2005, the Justice Department filing said, a draft of a consulting agreement was prepared between "Company H," and Global Energy and Environmental Services, a "Jefferson-family controlled company," for the signature of a relative the department refers to as "Family Member 4."
"On or about July 14th, 2005, Defendant Jefferson wrote a letter on the letterhead of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to NASA's administrator on Company H's behalf," the Justice Department brief said. "In the July 14 letter, Defendant Jefferson wrote of 'the challenge of providing the necessary budget resources to NASA, in an era of tight budgets,' and in the next sentence he wrote 'we encourage your close consideration of (Company H).'¤"
The Justice Department said that 20 days after the letter was written, searches of Jefferson's residences and other locations were executed by the FBI and "this scheme did not develop further."
The second alleged scheme outlined involved a "Company I," an oil services company that wanted to expand its business in West Africa, particularly Nigeria, and asked for Jefferson's help getting a meeting with a high-ranking Nigerian official. According to the Justice Department filing, Jefferson "suggested that it would be a good idea for Company I to hire Family Member 2 as a consultant with a $10,000 per month retainer fee."
The Justice Department said that "Company I" did not agree to hire the Jefferson family member.
Bruce Alpert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 383-7861.