Awaiting Indictment, Rep. William Jefferson Win Reelection
by Jim Kouri, CPP
While awaiting a federal indictment in an extensive bribery case, Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson easily beat his political opponent in a contentious runoff election on Sunday. But Jefferson may have put himself in the position of facing criminal bribery charges as a congressman rather than a private citizen by pursuing a ninth term in congress.
Jefferson defeated fellow Democrat Karen Carter, taking 57 percent of the vote to his opponent's 43 percent. Carter had hoped to become the first black woman elected to the US Congress from Louisiana. Jefferson is the first African-American to hold a seat from that state since the days of Reconstruction.
During the campaign, both Jefferson and Carter promised to help repair the lingering devastation of Hurricane Katrina, but Carter also characterized Jefferson as being untrustworthy, reminding voters of his involvement in a scandal that included allegations that FBI agents found $90,000 in bribe money stashed in Jefferson's freezer.
Jefferson, 59, has been accused of taking bribes from a company seeking contracts in the Nigerian telecommunications market. He has denied doing anything wrong and has not been charged. The man from whom Jefferson allegedly took bribe money pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson and is cooperating with the Justice Department prosecutors. The federal investigation is ongoing, according to the FBI.
Jefferson's return to Washington could taint Democrats' efforts to promote themselves as the party of reform. So far, the pasts of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), who was an unindicted co-conspirator in the FBI's ABSCAM investigation, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), who was impeached and removed from the federal bench for allegedly accepting a bribe, and Jefferson have muddied the waters for the party now in control of both houses of congress. Murtha's past denied him the coveted Majority Leader position and Hasting's denied him the chairmanship on the Intelligence Committee.
According to the criminal information contained in the indictment, from 1998 through 2006, Vernon Jackson had been the Chairman and CEO of iGate, Inc., a Kentucky firm developing technology which is designed to transmit data, audio, and video communications over copper wire. In his plea, Jackson admits that in 2000, he was introduced to Rep. Jefferson, who was active in promoting US trade and business in Africa with other members of the Black Caucus.
Rep. Jefferson allegedly provided official assistance to Jackson in persuading the US Army to test iGate's broadband two-way technology and other iGate products. Jefferson's official assistance led to the placement of iGate on the US General Services Administration schedule, making iGate products eligible for use in various federal contracts. Ultimately, iGate's products were used by the US Army at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Jackson further admitted that in early 2001, Rep. Jefferson told him that he would not continue to provide official assistance to Jackson's company, iGate, unless Jackson agreed to pay a nominee company ostensibly maintained in the names of Rep. Jefferson's spouse and children. Jackson agreed and signed a consulting services agreement committing iGate to pay the nominee company various things of value, thereby concealing Jackson's payments in exchange for Jefferson's performance of official acts in aiding iGate's business in Africa and elsewhere.
According to the FBI, Jackson made monthly payments of $7,500 to Jefferson, as well as a percentage of Jackson's gross sales. Rep. Jefferson also received a percentage of capital investments raised for iGate, and options for iGate stock.
In his plea bargain testimony, Jackson admitted to allowing over $400,000 to be paid to the nominee company and that the consulting services agreement was designed to conceal the illegal nature of the payments demanded by Rep. Jefferson.
In return for the agreement by Jackson to pay "things of value," Rep. Jefferson agreed to perform numerous official acts in furtherance of iGate's business, including efforts to influence high-ranking officials in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and elsewhere through official correspondence and in-person meetings; Jefferson's travel to those countries to setup these meetings; and meetings with personnel of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the official export credit agency of the United States, in order to help with potential financing for iGate business deals in those countries.
"According to his plea, Vernon Jackson got favorable treatment from a Congressman because he paid for it," said Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice.
"Public corruption is not a victimless crime -- all of us lose when people believe public officials can be brought. Those who conspire with elected officials to subvert the integrity of our government will be prosecuted," she said.
Rep. Jefferson is the subject of yet another ongoing criminal investigation. In August 2005, federal agents searched his home in New Orleans and his home and car in Washington, DC, as well as the home and office of his campaign accountant in New Orleans.
As part of the investigation, the US home of the Vice President of Nigeria also was searched. During the raid on Rep. Jefferson's home, FBI agents say that they found a large amount of cash in Jefferson's freezer.
In addition, in the midst of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, allegations arose that Rep. Jefferson used emergency response personnel and transportation, including members of the National Guard, to retrieve "packages" from his home. These were people attempting to rescue and protect victims of Katrina who were diverted by Jefferson to perform a personal chore.
Yet, this didn't stop Louisiana voters in his district -- which includes New Orleans -- from rewarding him with another two years in Congress.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.