The William Jefferson Chronicles

Jurors in William Jefferson's case go home for weekend
by The Times-Picayune
Friday July 31, 2009, 3:00 PM

ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- Jurors in the trial of former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson have gone home for the weekend and will resume deliberations Monday at 9:30 a.m.

The jury met for about six hours today after deliberating for about four hours Thursday . Closing arguments were delivered Wednesday with jury instructions Thursday morning.

Given the complexity of the 16-count indictment that includes charge of bribery, fraud, money laundering and racketeering, legal experts have said they expect the deliberations to take several days.

The trial began with jury selection June 9 and included six weeks of testimony.

Federal prosecutors say Jefferson, who represented the New Orleans-based 2nd Congressional District for nine terms, used his office to help American businesses land contracts in Africa in exchange for payments to companies controlled by his family. Jefferson's defense team said Jefferson was acting as private citizen and performed no "official acts," such as casting a vote, getting an earmark or an appropriation for his help in the deals, and is therefore not subject to the bribery statutes.

The only public action from the jury today came when they sent a note to Judge T.S. Ellis III, letting him know that they are satisfied with a tape recording of his jury instructions and no longer request a written transcript.

That jury of 12 consists of six white women, two white men, two black women and two black men. The jurors' first order of business after lunch was selecting a foreman, in the privacy of the jury room; one of the men was selected.

Ellis said that the lawyers need not be present when the jury convenes each morning before repairing for deliberations, but that if one side was present the other side should be. Jefferson's lead defense attorney, Robert Trout, told Ellis that his client had indicated he wants to be there each morning when the jury arrives.

Some of the 16 counts include multiple subsections, and the jury, to convict on that count, must agree unanimously on which subsection or subsections apply. Count 16, which charges that "the office of Congressman William Jefferson was a corrupt enterprise engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity," includes 12 Acts. Acts 1 through 11 each has a part A and B. Act 12 has parts A through I.

On some counts, but not all, the jury must conclude that some element of the crime occurred in the eastern district of Virginia where the trial is being held, but in making that determination it can rely on a preponderance of the evidence instead of the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard they using for the rest of their deliberations.

Ellis outlined the seven criteria for conviction under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which, after 32 years on the books, is receiving its maiden application to a public official. Ellis paused for a moment before listing those criterion, muttering, "it's in the disjunctive."

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charge refers to the government's allegation that the $90,000 found in Jefferson's freezer when the FBI raided his home in the summer of 2005 was intended as a bribe Jefferson was going to deliver to Atiku Abubakar, then vice president of Nigeria.

The money was never delivered, but Ellis said to be found guilty under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, "it is not required that the payment actually be made. It is the offer or authorization (of the bribe) that completes the crime."

The defense has said Jefferson never intended to deliver the money, though his attorneys have never explained what plans Jefferson had for the cash.

Ellis also told the jury that it cannot take into consideration the fact that Jefferson did not take the stand in his own defense, as is his right. No one can even mention it, Ellis said.

Ellis also cautioned the jurors that no deliberations can occur when any single member of the jury is in the bathroom or otherwise out of the room.

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