Ex-Rep William Jefferson Gets Big Break: Judge Allows Him to Remain Free Pending Appeal

Jefferson stands next to attorney Robert Trout during sentencing /Sketch by Art Lien/NBC News
Jefferson stands next to attorney Robert Trout during sentencing /Sketch by Art Lien/NBC News
By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — Ever since FBI agents raided his homes in Washington and New Orleans in 2005, little has gone his way. But Wednesday was different for ex-Rep. William Jefferson, who faces a 13 year prison sentence.

In an unexpected move, and against the advice of the prosecution, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, Va. ruled that Jefferson, 62, could stay out of prison pending the outcome of an appeal, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He was convicted in August of 11 public corruption counts.

The ruling means Jefferson, who lost a bid for a 10th term in Congress last year, could remain free for at least another year. In court papers filed last week, his attorney had acknowledged the possibility that Jefferson might soon have to report to prison shortly after sentencing, and asked that the judge at least let him spend Christmas with the family.

The government had filed court papers asking the judge to send Jefferson off to prison immediately after sentencing last Friday.  The prevailing thought had been that the judge would make him report to prison, possibly in January.

Judge Ellis, who gave the Jefferson the harshest sentenced ever handed down to a member of Congress for a public corruption sentence, ordered that Jefferson wear an electronic monitoring device and not travel outside the eastern district of Louisiana with his permission, the Picayune reported.

Ellis said he didn’t expect the conviction to be reversed on appeal, but acknowledged that the defense was raising questions in the appeal that could result in a new trial or reversal, the Picayune reported.

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