|William Jefferson's attorneys seeking files on key government witness in corruption case|
by Bruce Alpert, The
Tuesday December 09, 2008, 10:53 PM
WASHINGTON -- Attorneys for Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, say federal prosecutors are unfairly blocking them from getting information about the government's key witness in the corruption case against him.
The witness isn't named in a brief filed Friday by Jefferson's attorneys, but descriptions fit Lori Mody, a Virginia businesswoman who wore a wire for the FBI and was videotaped in July 2005, handing the congressman a briefcase with $100,000 in marked $100 bills as part of a government sting.
In their filing, Jefferson's lawyers said that the Justice Department shouldn't be permitted to keep secret its motions to quash subpoenas for evidence related to the witness.
The motion was filed the day before Saturday's general election, in which Jefferson lost his bid for a 10th term, but wasn't released by the federal court in Alexandria, Va., until this week.
Mody was an investor in a telecommunications project planned for Western Africa by iGate Inc., a company whose president has pleaded guilty to paying bribes to a business controlled by Jefferson's family. Mody went to the FBI in March 2005 to complain about Jefferson and became a cooperating witness for the Justice Department.
Jefferson's lawyers rejected Justice Department objections that the effort to make the motions regarding Mody public "demonstrates his (Jefferson's) desire to harass the witness."
A defendant has every right, they said, to seek material that might "impeach" the credibility of a witness against him, even if it is potentially embarrassing to the witness.
Jefferson's lawyers said the congressman has been aware of the witness's role in the investigation since Aug. 3, 2005, when agents questioned him at his New Orleans home before raiding the residence, as well as his home in Washington, D.C., where agents reported finding $90,000 of the $100,000 in cash provided by Mody in his freezer.
In the more than three years since he learned that Mody was a government witness, his lawyers said, Jefferson "has not made a single public statement about the witness, nor has he imposed upon her in any way."
"The only contact in more than three years has been a single request for an interview communicated to her counsel by his counsel," Jefferson's lawyers said. "The defense made appropriate . . . requests for impeachment material and prepared subpoenas narrowly tailored to call only for those records generated during the time period involved in this case. The defense of this case has been handled with the utmost civility and professionalism."
There was no immediate comment from Mody, or the Justice Department.
Jefferson's trial, which had been slated for Dec. 2, has been delayed, most likely into the first half of 2009, pending resolution of an appeal by Jefferson.
The congressman has said he is innocent of the 16 charges filed against him in a June 2007 indictment, including bribery, conspiracy and racketeering.