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Congressman pleads not guilty to bribery, money laundering charges

[JURIST] Indicted US Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) [official website; JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Friday to charges [DOJ press release] under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [DOJ materials], including bribery, racketeering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. Jefferson allegedly accepted approximately $500,000 in bribes from numerous companies both in the US and in Africa and faces a maximum sentence of 235 years in prison if he is convicted on all counts. Prosecutor Mark Lytle estimated the trial, which is scheduled to begin on January 16, 2008, will take four weeks.

On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed two resolutions intended to speed up its internal investigation [JURIST report] of Jefferson. Last year, two of his associates pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation into the congressman. Former aide Brett Pfeffer pleaded guilty to bribery charges [DOJ press release] last January. Last May, businessman Vernon L. Jackson pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson [press release; WP report] and was subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison for paying more than $400,000 in bribes for Jefferson's influence in securing telecommunication contracts in West Africa. As part of the investigation, FBI agents conducted an 18-hour raid on Jefferson's congressional offices [JURIST report] last year. Jefferson is currently challenging the raid [JURIST report] before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The Los Angeles Times has more.

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