Jefferson Verdict Appears to Be Near

Posted August 5, 2009 at 4:23pm

Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis recalled attorneys in the criminal trial of ex-Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) to the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia on Wednesday afternoon, a likely indication that the jury has reached a verdict.

Jefferson is charged with 16 counts of violating federal law, including conspiracy to solicit bribes, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

Federal prosecutors argued during the seven-week trial that Jefferson used a complex web of business deals to solicit bribes and skirt public scrutiny as he abused his Congressional office for personal gain.

In particular, the prosecution accused Jefferson of arranging and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes funneled through “sham— consulting firms owned by his family members to promote business ventures in West African nations.

In his defense, Jefferson’s attorneys repeatedly attacked the FBI as overzealous and accused the Justice Department of stretching the law to fit its case.

During both his opening and closing statements, lead defense attorney Robert Trout also stressed to jurors that Jefferson did not break any laws, even if his actions might have violated internal House rules.