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April 2010


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Jurors in Ex-Cong. William Jefferson Said Mundane Documents — Not $90,000 in FBI Money or FBI Tapes — Convinced Them to Convict

Jefferson stands next to attorney Robert Trout during sentencing /Sketch by Art Lien/NBC News
Jefferson stands next to attorney Robert Trout during sentencing last November /Sketch by Art Lien/NBC News

By Allan Lengel

Rep.William Jefferson was hardly a household name — that is until FBI agents found $90,000 in his freezer at his Capitol Hill home on Aug. 3, 2005.

In the public’s eye, that seemed to be the center piece of the government’s case against Jefferson.

But  jurors who convicted the ex-Congressman of 11 of 16 public corruption charges last August have broken their silence and told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that it was the mundane documents that convinced them of his guilt, not the cash or photos or FBI secret recordings.

The Times-Picayune, in a story published Sunday by reporter Bruce Alpert, wrote that “particularly compelling, the jurors said, were letters and contracts outlining the payments that businesses were to pay to companies controlled by Jefferson’s family in return for the congressman’s assistance in brokering deals in West Africa.”

“What got us to guilty verdicts were the documents, not so much the tapes and photos,” one of three jurors who spoke to Alpert said. They spoke on the condition that their names not be used out of concern that they might anger federal Judge T.S. Ellis III, who advised them against talking to the media, Alpert wrote.

Interestingly, the charge centering around $90,000 that was passed on by a business woman working undercover for the FBI, was rejected by the jurors.

Alpert wrote that the jurors said the reason the charge was rejected was that two members of jury believed Jefferson planned to keep the cash rather than pass it on to the vice president of Nigeria as a bribe as the government had charged.

Jefferson, who lost his bid for re-election in 2008,  was sentenced last November to 13 years in prison. He  is free pending his appeal.

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