Judge Denies Dismissal of Wire Fraud Charges in Jefferson Case

Posted July 10, 2008 at 3:15pm

A federal judge has denied a request by Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) to drop the five counts of wire fraud levied against him in his corruption trial.

Jefferson faces a 16-count indictment alleging that he offered and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to promote a telecommunications venture in western Africa. He argued that the five counts of wire fraud should be dropped because the actions alleged in the indictment would not have deprived his constituents of their right to his honest services.

In the order denying the request, filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia, Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled that several of the actions described in the indictment, including corresponding with foreign and government officials, are official acts and constitute wire fraud.

The trial is set to begin Dec. 2. But the start date has repeatedly been pushed back pending a decision on Jefferson’s appeal to throw out the case on the basis that the acts alleged in the indictment are protected under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

A federal appeals court is set to take up Jefferson’s appeal in late September.