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After Many Many Delays, Trial to Begin for Ex-Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson

Early on in this whole thing, Congressman William Jefferson had an opportunity to plead guilty and get about six years. Before things got too far along, he decided to pass and fight this. Well, here’s his opportunity.The ex-Congressman’s public persona has always been that of a  gentleman. But when the jury hears some of the FBI tapes, they may have different thoughts — or at least the prosecution hopes so.

By Bruce Alpert
New Orleans Times-Picayune

Ex-Rep. William Jefferson while still in office

Ex-Rep. William Jefferson while still in office

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Nearly four years after FBI agents found $90,000 in marked bills stuffed inside the freezer in his Washington D.C. home, former Democratic Rep. William Jefferson will go on trial Tuesday, facing 16 federal bribery and public corruption charges.

While the “cold cash” came to symbolize the case on the Internet and late-night television, the investigation into complex international business deals also made legal history with the first-ever raid on a sitting congressional member’s office and a constitutional battle over the separation of powers and how bribery statutes are applied to members of Congress.

The indictment, which accuses Jefferson of seeking and sometimes receiving payments in return for helping businesses get contracts in western Africa, has already changed politics in both Louisiana and Nigeria.

Jefferson, a long-established New Orleans power broker, lost his bid for a 10th term in December to a relatively unknown Republican, Anh “Joseph” Cao. And Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar lost a run for his nation’s presidency, partly as a result of being listed as the intended recipient of bribes allegedly to be funneled from Jefferson.

Jefferson, 62, has maintained his innocence. If convicted, he would likely face up to 20 years in prison.

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