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Ex-Congressman Jefferson’s Foreign Bribes Convictions Upheld

William Jefferson, the former U.S. congressman serving a 13-year prison sentence for using his office to solicit bribes, lost a bid to have his conviction thrown out by a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, today upheld 10 of the 11 charges for which a jury convicted Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, in 2009. The court dismissed one wire-fraud charge, ruling that the federal court in Virginia was not an appropriate place to charge Jefferson for a phone call from Africa to Kentucky.

“Representative Jefferson could have been -- and perhaps yet could be -- prosecuted on Count 10 in the district in Kentucky where his phone call was received,” the three-judge panel said.

Jefferson, 65, was convicted of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and unlawfully seeking millions more, mainly by promoting business deals in Africa. Prosecutors claimed he was involved in 11 separate bribery schemes from August 2000 to August 2005 and that he and his family stood to gain more than half a billion dollars.

Jefferson’s lawyer, Robert Trout of Trout Cacheris PLLC in Washington, declined to comment on today’s ruling.

“We’re pleased the Fourth Circuit saw this case for what it was -- illicit and repugnant conduct by a Congressman who repeatedly sold his office to enrich himself and his family,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in an e-mailed statement.

Jefferson, who lost his bid for a 10th term in the House of Representatives in 2008 after he was indicted, was videotaped in July 2005 accepting $100,000 in a leather briefcase at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia. About $90,000 of the marked bills were later recovered from boxes of Pillsbury pie crusts and Boca meatless burgers in a freezer at the congressman’s Washington residence.

The case is U.S. v. Jefferson, 09-05130, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit (Richmond).

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