Juror dismissed in trial of former Rep. William Jefferson
by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Thursday June 25, 2009, 11:18 AM
ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- A female juror in former Rep. William Jefferson's public corruption trial was dismissed this morning without explanation.
Judge T.S. Ellis III made the announcement in open court, saying only that the juror was released for valid reasons. One of the four alternates, also a woman, was named as a replacement, leaving the jury makeup at eight women and four men.
Jefferson faces a 16-count indictment on bribery, racketeering, conspiracy and other charges connected to his role in helping companies land contracts in Africa.
The morning session was taken up with continued testimony by Dumebi Kachikwu, who was part owner of Nigeria Digital Television when the company entered a deal with a Kentucky-based technology firm being promoted by Jefferson.
Kachikwu testified Wednesday that Jefferson had sought payoffs from NDTV that could have netted the New Orleans Democrat millions of dollars. The deal with iGate Inc. eventually unraveled with then NDTV chairman Otunba Fasawe sending a letter to Nigerian political leaders accusing Jefferson of seeking bribes.
Kachikwu said that when he learned that Fasawe was trying to have Jefferson and Jackson arrested in Nigeria in May 2004, he rushed the Americans to the airport where they bought last-minute tickets to get out of the country.
Asked why he had contacted the U.S. Justice Department to provide testimony against Jefferson, Kachikwu said his wife had read about investigation and he decided to contact the FBI. He said he had been "financially ruined" by his involvement with Jefferson and iGate to the point where he couldn't pay his wife's college fees.
"I lost everything," he said. "I wanted some form of justice."
During his financial struggles, Kachikwu said, Jefferson and Jackson began refusing to take his calls.
As was the case in Jackson's testimony, Kachikwu made a point, even when not asked, to stress that Jefferson was using the weight of his congressional office in brokering the deals. When he talked about Jefferson's letter to the president of Nigeria, he noted it came on "official congressional letterhead."
In cross examination, however, defense attorney Amy Jackson asked Kachikwu why several days after the letter of complaint to Nigerian officials and his complaint that he thought the deal with iGate was a "con," he had sent an e-mail to Jackson asking about continuing technology deals.
Kachikwu said it was a different project than the one worked on by Jefferson, but the defense produced an e-mail suggesting that it was the same project.
Kachikwu was shakier as the cross-examination continued later in the morning, saying he couldn't "recollect" when he met with the FBI, how many times he met with them and what all he told them.
Jackson pointed out that Kachikwu initially had complained that he had been defrauded by Jefferson and Jackson without mention of bribery. And why, he was asked, did an e-mail from him to the FBI refer to Jefferson's "commission" on TV converter boxes that Kachikwu now says were payoff. If he knew we was victim of a bribe scheme why he didn't say so?
Corruption is a fact of life in Nigeria, Kachikwu said, you become "numbed" to this conduct.
But, he said, "I know a bribe and a shakedown when I see one."
He did, however, admit that he continued to seek work with Jackson, including projects in South Africa and London.
He denied he had received help from the U.S. Justice Department in clearing up some immigration problems that allowed him to move to the United States.