A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in Richmond, Virginia on Monday affirmed former U.S. Representative William Jefferson’s convictions for an FCPA conspiracy and nine other corruption counts. The court threw out a wire fraud conviction.
Five years ago, Jefferson, now 65, became the first member of Congress to be charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
His case is best known because of $90,000 found by FBI agents in the freezer at his Washington home. It was part of $100,000 in cash provided by the government’s cooperating witness and intended, the government said, to be used to bribe a Nigerian official to steer business to firms in which Rep. Jefferson’s family had interests.
After a six-week trial in Alexandria, Virginia in 2009, a jury acquitted Jefferson of the only substantive FCPA charge he faced. But he was convicted on eleven other counts, including conspiracy to violate the FCPA. He was also found guilty of soliciting and taking bribes, depriving citizens of honest services, money laundering and racketeering, wire fraud, and conspiracy to solicit bribes.
Judge Tim Ellis sentenced Jefferson to thirteen years in prison but freed him pending his appeal.
Jefferson, who served nine terms in Congress representing a district that included New Orleans, argued that the FCPA conspiracy count was tainted by erroneous jury instructions.
The appeals court rejected that argument. It also disagreed with Jefferson that his business dealings were ‘official acts’ protected from prosecution under federal law. The appeals court threw out a single wire fraud conviction because it involved a phone call from Africa to Kentucky and was improperly prosecuted in Virginia.
A report by Bruce Alpert at the Times Picayune said Jefferson could be ordered to begin serving his prison sentence soon. The three-judge appellate panel ruled unanimously on the ten counts it affirmed, making it unlikely that Jefferson’s thirteen-year sentence will be shortened or overturned on further appeal.