The William Jefferson Chronicles

Jefferson presses to stay out of jail
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
By Jonathan Tilove
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- Attorneys for William Jefferson are asking a federal judge to allow the former Democratic congressman to remain free on bond after his sentencing Friday pending appeal of his conviction on 11 counts of corruption.

In the filing Tuesday, the attorneys said Jefferson's appeal stands a reasonable chance of success and that, contrary to the assertions of the U.S. attorney's office, Jefferson poses no flight risk.

"Even if he could leave the country, there is absolutely no likelihood that the defendant would do so," Jefferson's attorneys said. "Mr. Jefferson has a wife, five daughters, and four grandchildren to whom he is entirely devoted, and it is his fervent desire at this juncture in his life to spend as much time with them as possible."

The motion notes that the Jeffersons attend church every Sunday followed by a meal with their extended family, and "there is no reason to believe that Mr. Jefferson would voluntarily separate himself from the bonds of family and faith that tie him to Louisiana."

"Mr. Jefferson is not going to run away from this court or its sentence," the motion states. "He has no interest in being a fugitive convicted forever of bribery. What he intends to do is what he has done all along: Stand and defend himself."

The government last week recommended that Judge T.S. Ellis III sentence Jefferson to between 27 and 33 years in prison. The government also recommended that Jefferson immediately be taken into custody.

But Jefferson's attorneys said that at the very least, the former nine-term congressman ought to be able to spend a last Christmas with his family before reporting to prison.

Jefferson was convicted in August of 11 of 16 counts of corruption revolving around a series of bribery schemes in which Jefferson used his office to promote business ventures in Africa in which his family was given an interest.

The legal question turned on whether Jefferson received something of value in exchange for his performance of an "official act," and his attorneys, led by Washington lawyer Robert Trout, argue that the judge's definition of an "official act" was far too broad.

"There was no evidence of 'official acts' that would fall squarely within the definition when read narrowly -- the government charged only that Mr. Jefferson promoted the business ventures by attempting to influence decisions made by others, primarily African officials and some U.S. government officials," Trout and his colleagues argue in their motion.

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