- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2009

A jury convicted former Rep. William J. Jefferson on 11 of 16 federal corruption charges Wednesday after deliberating for much of a week.

The Louisiana Democrat faces decades in prison.

During a six-week trial in federal court in Alexandria, prosecutors said Jefferson, who lost a re-election bid last year after serving nine terms, took bribes in exchange for helping American businesspeople involved in oil, sugar and telecommunications ventures gain access to West African countries. Mr. Jefferson tried to conceal the bribes through shell companies and sham consulting agreements, prosecutors said.

The case is best remembered for the nearly $100,000 that FBI agents found in the freezer of Jefferson’s Capitol Hill home.

Prosecutors said Jefferson took the cash from an FBI informant and planned to use the money to bribe the then-vice president of Nigeria to help secure a telecommunications contract.

Defense attorneys said their client never intended to bribe Vice President Atiku Abubakar and simply took the money to placate an overaggressive FBI informant, whom they described as emotionally unstable.

Jefferson’s lawyers argued that the companies and consulting contracts were legitimate and involved members of Jefferson’s family. Jefferson was simply helping his family in arrangements that may have been ethically dubious, but certainly weren’t criminal, his lawyers said.

During the trial, prosecutors played audio and video recordings of conversations between Jefferson and Lori Mody, a Northern Virginia businesswoman who had been involved in the venture to win the telecommunications contract in Nigeria, but went to the FBI after becoming suspicious about the entire arrangement.

In one video from July 30, 2005, Ms. Mody, who was wearing a wire for the FBI, gave Jefferson a briefcase containing $100,000. The exchange took place outside the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City. “I hope that’s exactly what the vice president needs to make him work hard for us,” Ms. Mody said at one point during the recording.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Jefferson responds as he walks off with the briefcase. Authorities say most of that money was found in Jefferson’s freezer a few days later.

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