|Judge Rejects Rep. Jefferson's Motion To Dismiss Racketeering Charges|
August 15, 2008 4:02 p.m. EST
Kris Alingod - AHN News Writer
Washington, D.C. (AHN) - A Virginia federal court has thrown out a motion from Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) to dismiss racketeering charges against him.
Jefferson's attorneys told U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III his congressional office could not be charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) because doing so would violated the principle of separation of powers. The lawyers also added that the charges do not clearly identify offenses. Ellis rejected both arguments and upheld the charges.
Jefferson pleaded not guilty in June last year to a 16-count indictment including racketeering, soliciting bribes, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. His congressional office had been raided by the FBI in May 2006 as part of an international investigation of allegations that he accepted a $100,000 bribe from an Internet and cable company in West Africa. Prosecutors said $90,000 of the money was found in "various frozen food containers and wrapped in aluminum foil" in the freezer in Jefferson's home.
The raid, believed to be the first one made on a congressional office in U.S. history, caused an uproar in Congress and resulted in a joint statement from Democrats and Republicans asking the FBI to return all documents seized from Jefferson's office.