The William Jefferson Chronicles

William Jefferson should forfeit $470,000 after guilty verdict
by Bruce Alpert and Jonathan Tilove, The Times-Picayune
Thursday August 06, 2009, 2:40 PM

William Jefferson, the former Democratic congressman convicted of bribery and racketeering, should forfeit more than $470,000 in assets and millions of shares in stock the government says flowed to two family companies, a jury ruled today.

The stocks were for a Nigerian telecommunications venture that died when the Jefferson investigation became known in August 2005, and are presumably worthless.

The jury determined that the money was obtained illegally and should be forfeited. The judge in the case will determine later the exact amount that must be surrendered.

Lead defense attorney Robert Trout argued this morning that the assets being sought by the government were not produced by illegal activity, noting that many of the financial transfers were documented as part of legitimate business deals.

"We submit you should not find that they are proceeds of illegal activities," Trout told jurors.

Trout said many of the deals were the result of Jefferson's "passion for Africa," a reference that seemed to rankle lead prosecutor Mark Lytle.

"This man's passion was for sale," Lytle told the jury. "He only had passion for Africa when people paid him to have passion for Africa."

Jefferson was convicted Wednesday of 11 of 16 counts of public corruption in a verdict that prosecutors said could send the 62-year-old New Orleans Democrat to prison for 20 years.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 30. Ellis has allowed, over prosecution objections, Jefferson to remain free pending his sentencing.

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