- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2009

UPDATED:

Prosecutors played video recordings Tuesday morning that they say show former Rep. William J. Jefferson taking a $100,000 bribe from a Virginia businesswoman.

One video, recorded in 2005, showed Mr. Jefferson taking a brief case from the trunk of Lori Mody’s car after a breakfast meeting at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City.

In the recording, Ms. Mody told Mr. Jefferson she hoped he enjoyed the briefcase.

“I will,” he responded. “I like it. I need a briefcase.”

Authorities say there was money in the case, which was supplied by the FBI, and was supposed to be given to the vice president of Nigeria. The money was to help Ms. Mody’s company win a telecommunications contract in the West African nation.

But authorities say the money never went to the Nigerian vice president, as the FBI found most of it a few days later in the freezer of Mr. Jefferson’s New Orleans home.

Mr. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bribery, money laundering and other charges stemming from a 16-count indictment. Mr. Jefferson, who served nine terms in Congress before he was defeated last year, is accused of taking bribes in exchange for promoting telecommunications services and equipment to several West African nations.

The three-week-long trial has included hours of complicated testimony regarding business deals in West Africa, but the cash in the freezer is still the symbol of the case.

Despite her important role in the case, prosecutors have said they will not call Ms. Mody to testify. They have not said why, but defense attorneys have said that she is emotionally unstable and that the apparent bribe was merely part of an FBI plot to set up a member of Congress.

Mr. Jefferson’s lawyers say he was simply helping companies run by his family to provide legitimate consulting services. They acknowledge his actions were dubious ethically, but were not illegal.

Without Ms. Mody’s testimony, prosecutors have had to use the testimony of FBI agent Timothy Thibault to introduce the recordings into evidence.

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