McCrery Tapped as a Witness for Jefferson

Jury Selection Begins in Corruption Trial

Posted June 9, 2009 at 6:28pm

Former Rep. Jim McCrery (R) will serve as an expert witness on behalf of fellow Louisianan and ex-Rep. William Jefferson (D) in his criminal corruption trial.

According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, McCrery may be called to testify about the “duties and the activities— of House lawmakers.

“Congressman McCrery will describe the constituent service or case work’ activities performed by Members,— defense attorney Robert Trout wrote. “He will explain generally that Members often provide assistance to their constituents in the form of obtaining information from, and/or facilitating interactions with, U.S. government agencies, and that they do that in order to maintain their constituents’ political support.—

“He is expected to testify that in his opinion, while certain of these activities have come to be customarily performed by many Members, there is significant variation among Members concerning the nature and extent of activities performed,— Trout continued.

The former Congressman, who served in the House for more than 20 years until his retirement at the end of the 110th Congress, was also the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Jefferson also served on the panel during that time, although House Democrats voted to remove him from the committee in 2006 in response to an August 2005 raid on Jefferson’s home that uncovered $90,000 in cash in his freezer.

[IMGCAP(1)]McCrery’s testimony is likely intended to counter that of former Rep. Matthew McHugh (D-N.Y.), who will serve as an expert witness for the Justice Department. McHugh served in the House from 1975 to 1992.

Jefferson is charged in a 16-count indictment with violating federal law by offering and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to promote business ventures in West African nations.

Jury selection began in the trial Tuesday and is scheduled to continue today.

Federal prosecutors, Jefferson’s defense team and Judge T.S. Ellis will select a group of 16 men and women from a pool of about 100 potential jurors, determined in part by a questionnaire issued to potential jurors Tuesday morning.

In addition to queries about previous jury service and employment, Jefferson’s defense team requested the form include a question asking would-be jurors whether they are familiar with “a Congressman who was found to have money in his freezer.—

It is unclear whether the final questionnaire, which Ellis ordered to be sealed in court records, contained the question. But Ellis did raise the query in open court as he described the case to the jury pool.

“In this case, the government has alleged that William J. Jefferson, a former Member of Congress, has committed a number of crimes,— Ellis said. “In some media, this case has been referred to … [as] a large sum of money found in a freezer. That may help you recall it.—

Opening arguments in the case could begin as early as Thursday.

Jefferson appeared in court Tuesday dressed in a gray suit and red tie, accompanied by his daughters. Introduced to the jury pool by Trout, Jefferson gave a slight smile and nod.