Judge impatient with pace in trial of former Rep. William Jefferson
by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Monday June 22, 2009, 12:13 PM
ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- The judge expressed some impatience this morning with the pace of the public corruption trial of former Rep. William Jefferson.
Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis III, made his statements as former iGate CEO Vernon Jackson began his fourth day of testimony in the case in which Jefferson is facing a 16-count indictment that accuses him of seeking and sometimes receiving bribes in exchange for his help in brokering deals in West Africa.
"If this case lasts six weeks it will certainly be contrary to my intentions," Ellis said as the trial begins its second week.
Ellis seemed to be blaming the government for the time it took in questioning Jackson, who has pleaded guilty to paying bribes to Jefferson through a company operated by the former congressman's wife, Andrea. Jackson testified the payments were for Jefferson's help in pursuing technology contracts for iGate in Nigeria and elsewhere.
Jefferson has pleaded innocent and his attorneys are arguing that he was operating as a private citizen and did not use his congressional office in the dealings.
As defense attorney Robert Trout began his cross-examination of Jackson, he sought to enter into evidence a personal services contract between Jackson and Brett Pfeffer, a former Jefferson aide who was working as a financial adviser to Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody.
Trout said Mody went to the FBI to complain that Jackson and Pfeffer were defrauding her but did not include Jefferson until investigators began focus on him.
Trout said the personal service agreement would show why Mody was unhappy with Jackson and Pfeffer, who also has pleaded guilty to paying bribes to Jefferson. He said it was significant that Mody initially made no allegations about Jefferson.
Ellis appeared to disagree.
"So what?" the judge said after the jury had been dismissed for lunch, noting that what Mody believed to be potentially illegal activity was not relevant to the jurors.
Ellis said he would rule after lunch whether the document would be included.
Earlier in the day Trout questioned Jackson about whether payments he made to the Nigerian technology company NDTV were bribes. Jackson had described the payments as "kickbacks," but conceded under cross examination that they probably were bribes.
When it was pointed out that Jackson had told the FBI that he was never asked to pay bribes to anyone in Nigeria, Jackson said, "Let's say I was in denial when bribery was concerned."
The cross examination of Jackson is expected to continue this afternoon.