Judge Delays Start of Jefferson Trial Until Late February

Posted December 14, 2007 at 10:41am

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis on Friday morning delayed for six weeks the beginning of Rep. William Jefferson’s corruption trial, rejecting a request from the Louisiana Democrat’s lawyers to push the start date back four to six months.

The trial is now scheduled to begin Feb. 25.

The government in June filed a 16-count indictment against Jefferson, alleging that he solicited bribes from U.S. business owners in exchange for helping establish their companies in African nations. In November, the Justice Department said it plans to offer evidence of two additional bribery schemes, one in which Jefferson allegedly contacted NASA on behalf of an aerospace company that agreed to pay consulting fees to a company owned by his family, and a second in which he allegedly agreed to help a pipeline company doing business in Africa in exchange for the firm hiring his family members.

Ellis said at the hearing that while he did not see any reason why the defense could not be prepared by the original Jan. 16 trial date, he accepted attorney Robert Trout’s complaint that it would not be ready by that time.

Court documents suggest the trial will take three to six weeks, meaning it likely will be finished prior to the July 9-11 Louisiana Congressional candidate filing window, meaning the legal proceedings could be finished prior to a possible re-election campaign.