The William Jefferson Chronicles

William Jefferson's attorneys complain that feds unfairly edited recorded conversations
by Bruce Alpert and Jonathan Tilove, The Times-Picayune
Tuesday April 21, 2009, 7:56 AM

WASHINGTON -- Attorneys for former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson say the Justice Department has edited secretly recorded conversations to give a "misleading impression" of their client's guilt in his upcoming corruption trial.

A defense brief, filed with U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, contains some previously unreleased taped conversations recorded in 2005 before Jefferson learned during an August raid of his house that he was being investigated by the FBI for allegedly seeking bribes in return for his help securing business contracts in Western Africa.

The brief provides both transcripts of the tape selections that the prosecution wants to play for the jury, as well as fuller transcripts that Jefferson's attorneys say place his statements and actions in a fuller context. Some contain extensive profanity.

In all, Jefferson's attorneys said the Justice Department has indicated it wants to play 132 excerpts of taped conversations to the jury. The attorneys said they asked the Justice Department to play more complete versions for 62 of the excerpts and that the government agreed to only 11 of their proposed changes.

One example where Jefferson's attorneys believe the truncated transcripts mislead involve Jefferson's attempt to seize control of iGate Inc., a Kentucky company that Jefferson, according to a federal indictment, was promoting to leaders in Nigeria and Ghana for its copper-wire telecommunications technology.

The partial transcript offered by the government would make it appear that Jefferson was "seizing control of iGate, " when the "extended conversations make it clear that (firm CEO Vernon) Jackson has badly mismanaged the company, and that Mr. Jefferson was doing everything he could to resuscitate it."

Jackson is now in federal prison after pleading guilty to bribing Jefferson.

In a June 17, 2005, meeting with informant Lori Mody, the Virginia businesswoman who secretly wore an FBI wire, Jefferson talked a little about how his family stretched his finances -- all five daughters went to elite schools, including Harvard, Boston University, Emerson College, Brown University and Tulane Medical School.

"As for me, for us, we don't have any, uh, we're not rich in the sense of, uh, but I wasn't poor, " Jefferson told Mody.

"Before I started paying for tuition I wasn't poor, " he tells Mody. The transcript notes that Mody laughs, as Jefferson complains, "But now I'm kind of poor."

"Now it'll be flowing in, " Mody said.

Ellis, the Virginia trial judge, is likely to consider the issue raised in the new brief at a status hearing in Alexandria, Va., on May 8. The trial is scheduled to begin May 26.

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