The William Jefferson Chronicles

William Jefferson legal saga far from over
by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Friday August 07, 2009, 8:08 PM

William Jefferson faces daunting challenges on top of the potentially lengthy prison term Judge T.S. Ellis III could impose Oct. 30 for his conviction this week on 11 of 16 corruption charges.

The former congressman faces a forfeiture hearing at a yet undetermined date as a result of the jury's finding that he and his family received $470,000 and more than 30 million shares of stock proceeds as a result of criminal activities.

He also must deal with a lawsuit in Kentucky brought by unhappy investors in iGate Inc., the technology company for which Jefferson sought contracts with several Western African nations in return for payments to companies controlled by his family.

The iGate stockholders are seeking restitution from Jefferson, his wife, Andrea, and iGate's CEO, Vernon Jackson, on grounds that the three conspired to funnel money to Andrea Jefferson's company, the ANJ Group, without stockholder knowledge as part of a criminal enterprise.

U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson said the case, brought in 2007, could not go forward until Jefferson's criminal trial was completed.

Jefferson, 62, was convicted by a 12-member Virginia jury Wednesday of soliciting bribes, money laundering, depriving citizens of honest services as a member of Congress and turning his congressional office into a racketeering enterprise. He was acquitted of charges of obstruction of justice, violating the Foreign Corrupt Services Act and three honest services counts.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, he could face 20 years in prison, according to lead prosecutor Mark Lytle.

The appeal

Jefferson's attorneys have a week to ask Ellis for a new trial. Though the request would be the longest of long shots, it might allow the defense to get out information not provided during the trial -- including disclosure of why the government didn't call Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody as a witness. Mody wore a wire to record conversations with Jefferson and presented him, with five FBI cameras rolling, a briefcase filled with $100,000 in $100 bills.

Assuming the request for a new trial fails, Jefferson's attorneys would appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., after Ellis sets sentence. The appeals court averages about nine months to consider appeals, though Harry Rosenberg, a former New Orleans lead federal prosecutor now in private practice, said this case is so complicated that it might take 12 to 18 months to resolve. The wait would be longer if the Supreme Court decides to take the case.

A major issue in appeal likely would be whether Ellis gave the jury an overly broad interpretation of what constitutes official acts by a member of Congress. Jefferson argued that the actions the government labeled as illegal were private business deals not covered by the bribery statute.

It is not known whether Ellis, who allowed Jefferson to remain free pending sentencing, will continue that while his appeals are pending. Most legal experts questioned about the matter expect the answer will be no.

One problem for Jefferson is that judges generally like to hear convicted felons express remorse for their actions as part of sentencing. That's difficult to do for the former congressman since he's appealing the guilty verdict.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University law school, predicts Jefferson will be walking a tightrope, apologizing for unethical conduct, but not talking directly about whether his actions were illegal.

"It will be very awkward for him, " said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor.


The jury ruled that Jefferson could be held liable for $470,000 in money obtained from illegal acts. Ellis will decide whether the amount should be lower (he can't go higher) and whether to let the Justice Department seek other sources of revenue, including Jefferson's Washington and New Orleans homes to make the payments.

The forfeiture includes more than 30 million shares in iGate Inc. and several companies formed by Mody to set up iGate's telecommunications projects in Nigeria and Ghana. All this stock now has no or very little value.

The General Services Administration, which deals with forfeited assets, might find the best course of action would be to sell the stocks a share or two at a time to people who want souvenirs of a case that became well-known with the discovery of $90,000 in Jefferson's freezer.

A former iGate official, who asked not be identified, said the company rescinded the 30 million shares given to the ANJ Group and would likely make a claim for the shares under the forfeiture process. It's possible, when Jackson gets out of prison, which could occur shortly after Jefferson's sentencing, the company could reformulate.

Congressional pension

While a 2007 law enacted by Congress bars lawmakers from getting pension benefits after criminal convictions, it won't affect Jefferson because the illegal activity found by the jury occurred before the law was enacted. The law does not apply retroactively. Jefferson would have qualified for a pension of $42,750 if he started collecting at age 61, when he lost his re-election bid. He would get $45,000 a year if he waits until he turns 65.

Other family members

Although the government's case against the former congressman alleges that his family, mostly his wife Andrea, five daughters, brother Mose, and two sons-in-law benefited from his illegal activity, it's unlikely the Justice Department would bring charges against the family members. The Justice Department's No. 1 target was always the Democratic congressman and targeting other family members would be time consuming, expensive, and perhaps seen as overkill, according to some legal experts.

. . . . . . .

Bruce Alpert can be reached at or 202.383.7861.

Back to article index