|Judge refuses to dismiss charges against Jefferson|
by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Tuesday May 27, 2008, 2:38 PM
WASHINGTON -- A federal judge has rejected arguments by attorneys for Rep. William Jefferson seeking dismissal of charges that the New Orleans Democrat solicited and received bribes to promote business projects in Western Africa.
Jefferson's lawyers had argued that the government did not allege that Jefferson had performed any "official acts" related to the alleged bribes -- making the accusations null and void.
But U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III said that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that bribery charges can be brought even if the acts don't fit into the "responsibilities explicitly assigned by law."
He said it will be up to a jury to determine whether the actions alleged by the government relate to the performance of official duties or "settled customary duty or practice" and relates to a government decision or action."
"Whether or not the government is able to prove each of these elements ... is a question properly addressed at trial, not on a motion to dismiss an indictment," Judge Ellis wrote.
Jefferson had been scheduled to go on trial in January on the Justice Department's 16-count indictment, which includes charges of bribery, racketeering and conspiracy. But the trial has been delayed indefinitely while the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., considers a Jefferson appeal of an earlier Ellis ruling on another pre-trial motion.
It's not clear whether Jefferson is able to appeal the latest Ellis ruling. It's possible that issue won't be subject to possible appeal until the completion of Jefferson's criminal trial.