The William Jefferson Chronicles

Jury sees photos of cash in William Jefferson's freezer
by Jonathan Tilove and Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday July 08, 2009, 9:55 PM

ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- The lead FBI agent in the investigation of former Rep. William Jefferson denied Wednesday that he had instructed cooperating witness Lori Mody to play on Jefferson's emotions, get him drunk, and lure him into taking a bigger share of her company.

"That's not on her, that's on him, " special agent Timothy Thibault said, explaining that Jefferson continued to escalate his demands for a piece of Mody's business even when he wasn't under the influence of her wiles and wine.

In its redirect, the prosecution played a videotape from the four-hour, $1,023 dinner Mody and Jefferson shared at Galileo, a fancy Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C., on May 12, 2005, to show that it was Jefferson, not Mody, who was questioning the wait staff about the wine choices, and ordering a 1997 vintage.

Thibault was asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebeca Bellows how old he thought Jefferson was at the time of the dinner. Thibault replied that he figured Jefferson to have been in his early 60s.

"Old enough, " said Bellows, to decide whether or not to imbibe. Jefferson is now 62.

Food packaging reused

The day ended with the jury being shown photos of the $90,000 in marked money the FBI found about a half hour into their search of Jefferson's Washington, D.C., residence on Aug. 3, 2005. The money, in $10,000 stacks of hundred-dollar bills, was wrapped in tinfoil and stuffed into Boca meatless burger and Pillsbury frozen pie crust boxes, and Yes! Organic Market bags.

The bills represented the lion's share of the money that Mody had delivered to Jefferson on July 30, 2005, and which the FBI had expected Jefferson to use to bribe Atiku Abubakar, then vice president of Nigeria.

According to Thibault's testimony, Jefferson was not continuously under surveillance after receiving the money from Mody because of manpower issues in the bureau.

Code name: 'King Arthur'

Jefferson's lead attorney, Robert Trout, questioned Thibault about a series of playful e-mail exchanges between him and Mody. Thibault denied that his relationship with Mody was ever anything but professional and appropriate.

"I would have never met with her at Camelot alone, " said Thibault, referring to the name the FBI gave to a covert operations site the bureau had in suburban Virginia. It was there he and other agents would prepare Mody, sometimes over takeout food, for her meetings with Jefferson, meetings she was secretly taping for the FBI.

In keeping with the "Camelot" theme, Thibault also revealed during his testimony Wednesday that the FBI referred to Jefferson by the code name "King Arthur, " which was often shortened to "Arthur, " or just "Art."

Brett Pfeffer, who testified earlier in the trial and had worked for both Jefferson and Mody, was "Lancelot" or "Lance."

Thibault said that Mody referred to Vernon Jackson, the CEO of iGate, the Kentucky firm whose broad band technology Mody and Jefferson were attempting to bring to Nigeria, as "Gomer." But that was not an official FBI code name with a chivalric theme, but just a token of her contempt.

Mody's code name was "Cascade, " an apparent reference to a popular dishwasher detergent. In one e-mail, Mody said she was assigning Thibault the nickname "Cowboy, " or perhaps "Lone Ranger, " but he replied he had "always been fond of Doc Holliday."

Lots of time, wine

In his day of cross-examining Thibault, Trout attempted to put some flesh on the bones of his opening statement, in which he declared that federal investigators "created the script, directed the action, and she (Mody) came to love the starring role they gave her."

"With a lot of time and a lot of wine, they set out to bag a congressman, " he said.

Thibault said Mody "was playing the role that she was a quote, unquote corrupt businesswoman, " and needed support.

In one reply, on June 18, 2005, Thibault obliged, writing, "Your performance . . . well, let's just say there are grown men thay (sic) can't contain themselves."

In the one e-mail that Thibault said he regretted sending Mody because of the way it could be misinterpreted, Thibault, who had gotten lost in a trip to the country, wrote on July 8, 2005: "I wish I were near u. This is the boondocks."

He said what he meant was, "I wish I was closer to civilization."

But Trout asked: "She believed you were coming on to her?"

Thibault apparently addressed the misunderstanding, because Mody subsequently replied, "Something tells me I probably just made a mistake . . . didn't i? That's what I get for trying to email you after having missed dinner and having consumed a couple of drinks. Please accept my excuse . . . And anyway . . . you started it."

The prosecution does not plan to call Mody as a witness.

Defense strategy

Before the lunch break, and after the jury had been excused, Judge T.S. Ellis III asked Trout whether he was pursuing an entrapment defense.

Trout said he was not.

An entrapment defense would require the judge to give specific instruction to the jury and would open the defense to broader examination of the defendant's character.

But, according to George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, who has been following the Jefferson case, eschewing an explicit entrapment strategy does not mean the defense cannot employ elements of one.

"It generally works to the defense advantage to come as close to the line as possible, " Turley said. "Jurors are innately familiar with the concept of entrapment. In most cases you don't have to make the formal defense in order for jurors to consider the elements related to entrapment."

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Jonathan Tilove can be reached at or 202.383.7827. Bruce Alpert can be reached at or 202.383.7861.

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