A federal jury convicted a former Louisiana congressman today of taking bribes on 11 of 16 counts in a case in which agents found $90,000 in his freezer. Former Rep. William Jefferson, a Democrat who had represented parts of New Orleans, was accused of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes and seeking millions more in exchange for brokering business deals in Africa. He was convicted of charges including bribery, racketeering, and money laundering.
Prosecutor Mark Lytle said Jefferson could face more than 20 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. He wanted the 62-year-old detained after the verdict, saying his ties to Africa made him a flight risk. However, Judge T.S. Ellis III allowed Jefferson to remain free on bond because of his local ties. The defense argued that Jefferson was acting as a private business consultant in brokering the deals and that his actions did not constitute bribery under federal law.