Feds, ex-Louisiana congressman working on resentencing deal
McLEAN, Va. (AP) — Federal prosecutors and lawyers for a former Louisiana congressman who famously hid $90,000 in his freezer are working on an agreement for his resentencing on corruption charges, according to court documents filed in the case.
Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, a nine-term Democratic congressman from New Orleans, was convicted in 2009 of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes in exchange for brokering business deals in Africa.
He received a 13-year sentence, but was released earlier this year after serving a little over five years when a Virginia judge dismissed seven charges against him based on a Supreme Court ruling that made it more difficult to convict public officials on bribery-related offenses.
In court documents filed during the past week, prosecutors and Jefferson’s attorneys said they are negotiating an agreement to make a joint recommendation on Jefferson’s new sentence. The two sides indicated an agreement could be reached as early as Wednesday. Jefferson has a resentencing hearing scheduled for Friday.
In a Nov. 22 request to extend a filing deadline, prosecutors and Jefferson’s attorneys said they needed more time because they are “negotiating an agreement that, if finalized, will result in a jointly recommended sentence and disposition.” They said that if the recommendation is approved by the court, it would “obviate the need for further litigation.”
A 2005 raid of Jefferson’s Washington home turned up cash stuffed in frozen food boxes and made him fodder for late-night comedians.
Last month, U.S. Senior Judge T.S. Ellis III said Jefferson, now 70, should get a new sentencing hearing because the U.S. Supreme Court has changed what constitutes an “official act” for which a public official can be convicted of bribery. The ruling came in 2016, when the Supreme Court threw out corruption convictions against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Jefferson’s defense lawyers had argued that he was acting as a private business consultant when he accepted payments from a Kentucky businessman who sought Jefferson’s help in developing telecommunications deals in Africa and with the U.S. military.
But prosecutors said Jefferson was cashing in on the influence he had as a congressman and was taking bribes for actions that are routine for a member of Congress expected to provide service to his constituents.