Justice Department Asks Judge to Toss Jefferson Motions

Posted September 28, 2007 at 5:28pm

The Justice Department on Friday asked a court to throw out Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) request to move his corruption trial out of Virginia, arguing that Jefferson based his motion on an “absurd” and “outrageous” claim that the government brought the case in the Old Dominion simply to face a jury pool with fewer blacks.

In a strongly worded reply to Jefferson’s Sept. 7 motion, the Justice Department wrote that the case belongs in the Virginia court because the Congressman “engaged in criminal conduct in the Eastern District of Virginia before and during the government’s investigation.”

Jefferson’s lawyers had argued that most of the alleged bribery scheme of which he is accused took place in New Orleans and Washington, D.C. The only reason to try the case in Virginia, they said, is to avoid the predominantly black jury pools in those cities.

The government replied Friday that “Without even a scintilla of evidence to make this preposterous claim,” Jefferson’s legal team claims to have “established a ‘prima facie case’ of discriminatory purpose” as the justification for moving the trial. The Congressman “proffers absolutely no evidence indicating that the government selection of venue in this case was racially motivated,” the Justice Department contends, thus the motion to move the case and the motion to investigate the venue selection process should be rejected.

DOJ also filed several briefs Friday opposing various motions Jefferson had made challenging the validity of the charges against him.

The government in June filed an 18-count indictment against Jefferson, alleging that he solicited bribes from businessmen in exchange for helping establish their companies in African nations.