Testimony continues in trial of former Rep. William Jefferson
by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday June 17, 2009, 10:39 AM
ALEXANDRIA, VA. - The federal corruption trial of former Rep. William Jefferson resumed this morning with testimony from the founder of a technology firm who has pleaded guilty to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to companies controlled by the congressman's family.
Vernon Jackson, former CEO of iGate, said he made the payments in exchange for Jefferson's help in arranging contacts and deals with Western African officials. He said Jefferson was using his influence as a congressman, not acting as a consultant or private businessman.
The distinction is key to the government's 16-count indictment of Jefferson, who is accused of trading on his public office for personal gain. Jefferson has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys argue that the bribery charges against him should be dismissed because they do not involve "official acts" such as voting or introducing legislation and earmarks.
Conducting the examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebeca Bellows asked Jackson if Jefferson ever told the various officials and business people they met that he was acting as a private businessman, Jackson said: "Never."
Did he ever reveal his financial state or business interests in Jackson's company? "No."
Jackson made many of his payments to ANJ, a firm Jefferson created for his wife and daughters. In opening arguments Tuesday, prosecutors called ANJ a "shell company" created entirely to receive the payments from Jackson.
Jackson, who has pleaded guilty to bribery and is serving a seven-year, three-month sentence in federal prison, testified that he paid invoices to ANJ for various services, but it was Jefferson who was doing all the work.
One invoice showed the jury included a notation for giving advice on how Jackson could meet "your goal" of providing 15 percent ownership of his company to ANJ.
Asked if that was his idea, Jackson said, "I might have agreed to it, but it wasn't my suggestion."
Jackson was expected to continue his testimony this afternoon.