By Frank James

A federal jury has convicted William Jefferson, the former congressman from New Orleans, of accepting and making bribes.

Jefferson became infamous and a national punchline after the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents found $90,000 in the freezer section of the refrigerator his Washington, DC-area home.

The Associated Press is reporting:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) - A jury in suburban Washington has convicted a former Louisiana congressman on 11 of 16 counts including bribery in a case in which agents found $90,000 in his freezer.

Former Rep. William Jefferson is accused of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes and seeking millions more in exchange for brokering business deals in Africa. He is a Democrat who had represented parts of New Orleans.

The jury deliberated five days before returning the verdict Wednesday. It was an eight-week trial.

Given the strength of the evidence, the conviction doesn't come as a surprise.

NPR profiled Jefferson three years ago. The piece mentions that from the earliest days of his political career, Jefferson was viewed by some as the kind of politician who would use his political position to advance himself financially. That earned him the sobriquet "Dollar Bill."

An excerpt from that 2006 report:

As a state senator, and an increasingly powerful lawyer, Jefferson was seen as one to watch. At the same time, though, critics were starting to whisper about him: They accused Jefferson of using his political position to funnel work towards his law firm. They talked about questionable real-estate deals and tax problems. And they christened him with a nickname -- "Dollar Bill Jefferson."
Ed Renwick directs the Institute for the Study of Politics at Loyola University in New Orleans. He says that, taken individually, none of the ethical scrapes William Jefferson got into seemed to amount to much. In 1990 Jefferson was elected to Congress. And if there were any nagging ethical questions, he seemed to leave them in his dust as he headed to Washington.
Renwick says in subsequent years, it has helped that Jefferson never faced a real re-election challenge.
"If we had a place where each time the race came up it was contested, well, then, people would be much more aware of these things," Renwick says. "But how long has it been since Jefferson has had an opponent for Congress?"

categories: Crime

5:43 - August 5, 2009