Monday, June 4, 2007

Commentary on the Indictment of Rep. William Jefferson

The Indictment, described here, offers a good bit about the direction that the prosecution is prepared to take should this case go to trial. Some thoughts:

1. The case is brought in the Eastern District of Virginia, yet the harm alleged in many counts relates to actions related to his position in Congress which of course is located in the District of Columbia and Louisiana. When the government proceeds with conspiracy, they are able to charge in the district where the agreement took place, or where any of the acts took place, and where the parties may have an interest. In this Indictment one finds a cooperating witness in Virginia and the United States Trade and Development Agency also located there.  One also finds others connections to Virginia. The government has enormous discretion in a case such as this is choosing its venue, and the defense basically has none. The government's choice here was to place this case in the "rocket docket" jurisdiction and to place it in a venue that is likely to be more favorable to the government.

2. The Indictment mentions that Rep. Jefferson has a JD degree from Harvard and an LL.M. in tax from Georgetown. Is it really necessary to include a person's educational background in an indictment?  Or is this an attempt by the government to quash any future claims that might be made by the accused  that he did not know what he did was against the law?

3. The Indictment is a classic case of double billing.  The government charges conspiracy for the same acts as the substantive offenses, and then repeats them as predicate acts for RICO.  Thus the charges in some instances are three times for the same conduct.  Is the government permitted to do this- yes.

4. Who are the government witnesses?  Two are obvious, as they are named.  But the rest range from official A, businessperson A, Company A, and proceed through much of the beginning part of the alphabet in like fashion.  Why are there so many undisclosed individuals in this indictment?  Is the government protecting its witnesses so that they testify for them and that their businesses do not feel any repercussions?   Will the defense be able to properly prepare their defense without these witnesses being disclosed?

5.Several counts relate to a deprivation of honest services.  Is it really possible to deprive the United States House of Representatives of their right to honest services?

6. The timing of this Indictment presents some interesting questions also.  How long has the government had its evidence?  Is it just coincidental that it comes the day before the sentencing of I "Scooter" Libby?

Just some initial thoughts.

(esp)

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Comments

"Or is this an attempt by the government to quash any future claims that might be made by the accused that he did not know what he did was against the law?"

Yes.

Posted by: Girl, You Know It's True... | Jun 5, 2007 8:28:33 AM

With respect to #5, I believe the "honest services" charge is for the theft of Jefferson's services to the people of his district, rather to the House itself. Your point re: the ethical standards of Jefferson's colleagues is well-taken nonetheless.

Posted by: beaujack | Jun 5, 2007 2:36:19 PM

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