|Jefferson attorneys want return of raided papers in bribe probe|
2/28/2007, 6:04 p.m. CT
By LARA JAKES JORDAN
The Associated Press - NOLA.com
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorneys for Democratic Rep. William Jefferson asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to force the Bush administration to return all documents that were seized during an FBI raid last year on the congressman's office.
In their 52-page request, lawyers for Jefferson, D-La., argued that the Justice Department violated Congress' right to withhold certain information from the executive branch when it conducted the unprecedented 18-hour search last May 20-21.
The raid was part of a 16-month international bribery investigation of Jefferson, who allegedly accepted $100,000 from a telecommunications businessman — $90,000 of which was later recovered in a freezer in the congressman's Louisiana home.
Jefferson's attorneys said nearly 19,000 pages of documents and electronic files seized by prosecutors and the FBI are covered by Congress' separation of powers privilege to shield certain legislative material from executive review.
But the FBI "inspected every document in the office suite and copied every computer hard drive or other electronic storage device they could find," the attorneys wrote in their request filed Wednesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. "Once that occurs, the privilege is breached."
"Because this case involves the first time in United States history that a search warrant has been executed on a congressional office, it is vital that the remedy imposed be sufficiently stringent to deter future searches that exceed constitutional boundaries," Jefferson's team concluded. "The only remedy that will vindicate and protect the fundamental principles of separations of powers and legislative independence ... is return of all of the seized materials."
The Justice Department had no immediate comment.
Last summer, the appeals court agreed to delay the Justice Department's review — and therefore, the bulk of its investigation — of more than a dozen computer hard drives, several floppy discs and two boxes of documents that were seized as he challenges the legality of the raid.
Jefferson was re-elected to Congress last year.