Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Jefferson's Long Odds

If recent history is any judge, Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) is facing some long odds in his fight with the Justice Department. Jefferson has been indicted for alleged criminal acts, including taking bribes.

Examining media accounts and other historical documents, Capitol Briefing has found that since 1980 at least 17 members of Congress have been indicted while still in office, initially pleading not guilty to the charges in federal or state courts. [These totals do not include admitted felons such as former Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) and Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who pleaded guilty before indictments.]

Of those indicted lawmakers, just one eventually walked out of a courthouse a free, non-convicted man. And it took then-Rep. Joseph McDade (R-Pa.) four years and three months to get his not-guilty verdict in a bribery and racketeering case involving defense contractors. That's the longest running case involving a member of Congress in recent history.

Jefferson's only other potential example of salvation, legally speaking, is former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who was indicted on state charges of laundering corporate contributions in 2002 back in September 2005. Out of Congress more than a year, DeLay still has not gone to trial on those charges as legal motions are still being filed and no trial date is set.

Every other lawmaker indicted during this time either quickly pleaded guilty or was eventually found guilty by a jury trial. On June 8 Jefferson pleaded not guilty to the charges of bribery, conspiracy and a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly trying to win trade deals for businessmen in Africa in exchange for more than $400,000. He said he would fight the charges to until all legal options are exhausted.

"I am innocent. We are going to fight," Jefferson said, saying finances would not prevent him from mounting his defense. "We will sell every stick of furniture in our house ... to clear our name. It's no time to give up."

However, there are few clues as to how long Jefferson's legal battles will take, possibly a few more months -- particularly if he gives up and pleads guilty to any of the 16 counts of his indictment -- or many years. Several defense attorneys privately told Capitol Briefing the Jefferson trial could be a long ways off, with legal motions still being haggled over regarding a raid last spring on his congressional office, which Jefferson argues was a violation of the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution. [That gives members of Congress certain protections from the executive branch trying to criminalize what are legislative functions.]

"Most of these are complex cases--involving various pre-trial issues and motions and also involving numerous witnesses," one lawyer said.

Another attorney noted that lawmakers, particularly Congressmen in an era when the institution is held in such low esteem, are not the most sympathetic defendants.

"Politicians brought before juries in these cases stand very little chance--even on aggressively asserted theories. McDade really stands out," the attorney said.

A few other notable facts about indictments against sitting members of Congress:

• Four eventually pleaded guilty to some of the charges after losing re-election or retiring from office, the longest interval being Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.); the former Ways and Means chairman was indicted in June 1994, lost his election that fall, but didn't plead guilty until the spring of 1996.

• Just two recent senators have been indicted while in office, David Durenberger (R-Minn.) and Harrison Williams (D-N.J.). Durenberger retired rather than run for re-election in 1994, after an April 1993 indictment, and pleaded guilty in 1995 to misdemeanor counts of over-charging rent to federal agencies for property he owned. Williams was convicted of bribery in the Abscam scandal and left the Senate in 1982.

• The other six representatives indicted in the Abscam trial faced some of the quickest verdicts on their legal futures in political history, with each of them either pleading guilty or getting convicted in less than seven months.

• Then-Rep. Joshua Eilberg (D-Pa.) was indicted the closest to Election Day, Oct. 24, 1978' prompting him to lose his re-election battle for his Philadelphia district. Harkening to today's Justice Department scandal, Eilberg caused a controversy by pressuring President Carter to fire the U.S. attorney investigating him, prompting another scandal.

Here's a round-up of most, if not all, of the indictments against sitting members since 1980. Those with an asterisk were caught up in the Abscam scandal.

Member Indictment Resolution
Tom DeLay (R-Texas) 9/28/05 TBD
David Durenberger (R-Minn.) 4/3/93 Pleaded, 8/23/95
Joshua Eilberg (D-Pa.) 10/24/78 Pleaded, 2/24/79
William Jefferson (D-La.) 6/4/07 TBD
John Jenrette (D-S.C.)* 6/13/80 Convicted, 10/7/80
Richard Kelly (R-Fla.)* 7/15/80 Convicted, 1/6/81
Raymond Lederer (Pa.)* 5/28/80 Convicted, 1/9/81
Joe McDade (R-Pa.) 5/6/92 Acquitted, 8/2/96
Nicholas Mavroules (D-Mass.) 8/28/92 Pleaded, 5/25/93
Michael Myers (D-Pa.)* 5/27/80 Convicted, 8/30/80
John Murphy (D-N.Y.)* 6/18/80 Convicted, 12/3/80
Mel Reynolds (D-Ill.) 8/21/94 Convicted, 8/23/95
Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) 6/1/94 Pleaded, 4/10/96
Patrick Swindall (R-Ga.) 10/17/88 Convicted, 6/20/89
Frank Thompson (D-N.J.)* 6/18/80 Convicted, 12/3/80
James Traficant (D-Ohio) 5/5/01 Convicted, 4/12/02
Harrison Williams (D-N.J.)* 10/30/80 Convicted, 5/1/81

By Paul Kane  |  June 21, 2007; 7:36 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: A Regional Primary System?
Next: DAG IV: McNulty Returns

Comments

First!

OK, get this guy to trial, so we can all see the evidence. Sunlight and fresh air will disinfect whatever this case brings out. If he is convicted, then throw him out of office if he lacks the common decency to resign. Finally, if he is convicted, lock him up and throw away the key.

Posted by: 22046 | June 21, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

First!

OK, get this guy to trial, so we can all see the evidence. Sunlight and fresh air will disinfect whatever this case brings out. If he is convicted, then throw him out of office if he lacks the common decency to resign. Finally, if he is convicted, lock him up and throw away the key.

Posted by: 22046 | June 21, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

What vote did he swap for money? The allegation is bribery of an elected official. What vote did he cast in exchange for payment?

Posted by: Kacoo | June 21, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

So, by my count, that's 5 Republicans and 10 Democrats since 1980, with one not ascribed to either party. Not a good indictment (pun intended) of either party, but pretty clearly dominated by one party.

Posted by: 22046 | June 21, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

22046, yes by your count, it is dominated by one party. Your count, however, seems to have no basis in reality. Why don't you name who your counting so that we can see who you're conveniently overlooking?

Posted by: Patrick Huss | June 21, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Senators Propose Greenhouse Gas Registry

Bipartisan senators are supporting a move to direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a registry of US greenhouse gas emissions as a step toward dealing with the issue of climate change.

http://onthehillblog.blogspot.com/2007/06/senators-propose-greenhouse-gas.html

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

22046...I guess you are not counting Ney and Cunningham since they were so obviously corrupt that they copped a plea prior to an indictment being brought?

Posted by: Dahagg | June 21, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

As someone with more than passing familiarity with the federal criminal court system I can tell you that Jefferson is toast.

He better get ready for an roommate named Big Ike.

Posted by: mikeasr | June 21, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Before you all sit back on the verandas of your big plantation houses,mint julep in hand,remember that burnt toast scoundrel O.J. Simpson. What would a D.C. jury pool or a New Orleans jury pool have in common with O.J.'s?We are discussing activities in Africa for cryin' out loud. The classic African saying is that the U.S. wants Africa to be capitalist. So where is a poor boy from the bush going to get capital except by greasing the skids? So don't be so high and whitey.

Posted by: Richard Henderson | June 21, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Is Jefferson really toast? Before the beltway pundits retire to their verandas.mint juleps in hand,they should think about jury pools. What would an O.J. Simpson type jury do?After all, the U.S. wants Africa to become capitalist. So how is poor boy from the bush expected to raise the money to become a capitalist? And who better to show black Africans the way than a gentleman from the Big Easy. So let's not be so high and whitey and count Billy boy out before the last bell has rung.

Posted by: Richard Henderson | June 21, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

22046, yes by your count, it is dominated by one party. Your count, however, seems to have no basis in reality. Why don't you name who your counting so that we can see who you're conveniently overlooking?

Posted by: Patrick Huss | June 21, 2007 11:25 AM

Pat--not my count--see the table in the article for a basis in reality. Of course Rep. Lederer, from Pennsylvania, is a Democrat so I guess even with Ney, Cunningham included it's still overwhelming in favor of one party. Not reality based? I think you're the not-reality based entity here. By the way, if they were/are convicted (and Big Joe appears to be the only one who was acquitted), they deserve every day of prison time/humiliation they get.

Posted by: 22046 | June 21, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Like Bill Clinton, Dollar Bill Jefferson looks straight into the camera and says (with a straight face), he did nothing wrong. This is better than any comic.

Posted by: Tupac Goldstein | June 21, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I see plenty of Rs accompanying the Ds on that table, 22046. Now, if only Jefferson would have the decency to resign like Rs Cunningham and Ney did when caught red handed. Or maybe he has a really good reason why 100k FBI dollars were in his freezer.

Posted by: PJ | June 21, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

How convenient that you picked "1980" as the year to look back to. No perspective, no real information. You should have just focused on the present-day cases and made a better arguement about them, instead of arbitrarily selecting the cases you deemed to be important (and claiming "most, if not all" of the cases had been accounted for). What a silly, silly waste of space. I won't waste my time on this blog again.

Posted by: what? | June 21, 2007 7:13 PM | Report abuse

While all abuses of power and embezzling of public funds ought to be scrutinized, there are many other more pressing issues that should not be forgotten in the midst of this investigation. We must remember that, to date, the war has cost over $340 billion dollars--money which could have been spent much more wisely and with better end results. It is estimated, for example, that the expenditure of a mere $19 billion would eliminate starvation and malnutrition worldwide. In a time when the current defense budget is $522 billion, the goal of eradicating world hunger is clearly well within reach. Thus, it is clear that the occupation of Iraq needs to end as it is doomed to failure, and it needs to end now without regard to what this will do to United States interest in Iraq's oil. There are simply much more important issues that need to be addressed for Congress to focus completely on the investigation of scandals.

Posted by: Jessica | June 21, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

While all abuses of power and embezzling of public funds ought to be scrutinized, there are many other more pressing issues that should not be forgotten in the midst of this investigation. We must remember that, to date, the war has cost over $340 billion dollars--money which could have been spent much more wisely and with better end results. It is estimated, for example, that the expenditure of a mere $19 billion would eliminate starvation and malnutrition worldwide. In a time when the current defense budget is $522 billion, the goal of eradicating world hunger is clearly well within reach. Thus, it is clear that the occupation of Iraq needs to end as it is doomed to failure, and it needs to end now without regard to what this will do to United States interest in Iraq's oil. There are simply much more important issues that need to be addressed for Congress to focus completely on the investigation of scandals.

Posted by: Jessica | June 21, 2007 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Graft will always be a feature on Capitol Hill. Congress should pass an ethics bill with real teeth instead of hiding their collective head in the sand and act like nothing has happened.

Posted by: camel89 | June 21, 2007 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Despite the promise from the Speaker of the most ethical congress ever, we are now seeing the "donkeys" joing the "elephants"
in the parade of shame. Do not be surprised if the GA-13 congressman might be joining the parade as well. Oh what a web we weave ....

Posted by: mmmurphy | June 25, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company