Louisiana Democratic Congressman William Jefferson was caught on video accepting a bribe from an FBI informant.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – FBI agents videotaped Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, accepting $100,000 in cash they said was intended as a bribe for a Nigerian official and later found $90,000 of the money hidden in his freezer, according to a court document released on Sunday.
The document said the eight-term congressman received the cash from an FBI informant, who approached the bureau in March 2005 with her suspicion that Jefferson and two business associates conspired to defraud her out of $3.5 million.
Jefferson, a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, has been under investigation for his role in helping a Nigerian company with an Internet venture. He has maintained his innocence in the matter.
According to the document, the FBI recorded a series of conversations between Jefferson and the informant, leading up to a July 30, 2005, meeting at a hotel in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. What happened next was captured by the FBI on videotape, the document said.
“At the close of the meeting, (the informant) and Congressman Jefferson exited the building and stood before the open trunk of (the informant’s) car. At that time, Congressman Jefferson reached in and removed a reddish-brown colored leather briefcase which contained $100,000 cash in denominations of $100 bills,” according to the court document.
“He placed the briefcase in a reddish-brown colored cloth bag, then took the bag, containing the briefcase and the $100,000 in cash and placed it inside the passenger compartment of his 1990 Lincoln Town Car and drove off.”
And his attorney argues that the release of the tape was an attempt to embarrass his client:
Jefferson’s attorney, Robert Trout, criticized the FBI for releasing the court document, which he said was “an obvious attempt to embarrass Congressman Jefferson” on the part of prosecutors who have not charged the lawmaker with any crime.
I’d say his client did a fine job of embarrassing himself.
Update: Greg Tinti says the culture of corruption meme is on its last legs.