Jefferson’s Attorneys Decry Prosecutors on a Mission’

Posted July 29, 2009 at 3:07pm

Attorneys for former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) on Wednesday urged a federal jury to return a not guilty verdict in his corruption trial, characterizing an FBI investigation as overzealous and accusing prosecutors of stretching the law.

“They had a mission,— lead defense attorney Robert Trout said during a two-hour closing argument.

While acknowledging that Jefferson may have violated House rules, Trout insisted the ex-lawmaker’s business dealings did not violate federal law.

“There is a difference between a grey area and committing a crime,— Trout said.

Prosecutors are scheduled to return late Wednesday afternoon to offer a rebuttal.

Jury deliberations could begin as early as Thursday afternoon.The jury consists of eight women and four men.

Earlier Wednesday, federal prosecutors spent approximately two hours detailing the 16-count indictment against Jefferson.

“Congressman Jefferson not only sold his office, but he wanted to make sure he got top dollar for it,— said federal prosecutor Rebeca Bellows. “It’s time at long last to bring Congressman Jefferson to justice.—