Judge refuses to drop most charges against Jefferson
09:21 PM CDT on Monday, July 27, 2009
Bigad Shaban / Eyewitness News
Chad Bower / Eyewitness News
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A judge has denied former Congressman William Jefferson's motion to drop 14 of the 16 charges against him.
Judge T.S. Ellis III said he will consider overnight dropping one of those charges against Jefferson -- obstruction of justice. The remaining 14 will not be dropped.
The defense had argued that, after hearing the entire case of the prosecution, there wasn’t enough evidence to even go to a jury. In most of the charges, the defense testified, Jefferson wasn’t acting as a U.S. Congressman, but as a private businessman.
“My ruling today is [the prosecution] has met that standard … there is a mountain of evidence that they have approved an official act,” Ellis said. “The use of his official passport, use of U.S. state department and embassies request on the letterhead – all of these tend to show they are official acts.”
Jurors will have to wait for closing arguments in Jefferson trial
Ellis said the obstruction of charge may be based on a weak argument, largely because Jefferson ultimately complied with investigators.
“I find it hard to believe he would have the intent to hide two documents that weren’t very significant in themselves,” Ellis said.
According to prosecutors, when federal agents conducted a surprise search of Jefferson’s home in Washington, D.C., Jefferson tried to hide in his bag two recent faxes that had information on payments and business dealings with technology company iGate Inc.
When asked about the pieces of paper, the agent testified, Jefferson said it was just the subpoena and the search warrant they handed him. But the agent noticed Jefferson had slid the two faxes under the warrant.
The defense countered by saying Jefferson was not trying to conceal anything, since Jefferson handed the documents over when asked for them.
The prosecution also argued that Jefferson took the faxes from a room that they hadn’t yet had a chance to search. The defense said Jefferson couldn’t have known where exactly agents had searched, but prosecutors said Jefferson was placed in an area where they had already searched before he took the faxes.
Ellis will weigh all of that and make his decision by Tuesday about whether or not to drop the obstruction of justice charge.
The former congressman, having waived his right to appear, was not in court to file the motion.
Closing arguments in the case are likely to begin Wednesday.