Photoshop: Suitably Flip
Finally. Nearly four years after FBI agents discovered nearly $90,000 in purported bribe money stuffed in Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson’s freezer, the Democrat is finally going on trial this week. He faces 16 federal bribery and public corruption charges. NOLA sums up:
While the “cold cash” came to symbolize the case on the Internet and late-night television, the investigation into complex international business deals also made legal history with the first-ever raid on a sitting congressional member’s office and a constitutional battle over the separation of powers and how bribery statutes are applied to members of Congress.
…If convicted, he would likely face up to 20 years in prison.
The trial, expected to last four to six weeks, won’t lack for drama. The prosecution’s case is likely to include some of the hundreds of hours of secretly recorded conversations, many between Jefferson and Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody, a disgruntled investor who became a cooperating witness.
The snippets of conversations already released by prosecutors include Jefferson telling Mody on May 12, 2005, that Nigerian businessman Suleiman YahYah will probably have to pay bribes to get a telecommunications project proposed by iGate Inc. past regulators. Mody was an iGate investor.
“We got to motivate him real good,” Jefferson said, according to a Justice Department transcript. “He’s got a lot of people to pay off.”
Cries of racism in 3, 2, 1…
Elsewhere, via the Times-Picayune’s Stephanie Grace, we learn that indictments run in the Jefferson family:
…the tight-knit clan with the damaged name includes several siblings who also benefited from Jefferson’s power and prominence — and who stand accused in a newly revamped federal indictment of forming a criminal enterprise to steer an appalling amount of federal, state and city money into their own pockets. Last year, Jefferson’s political operative brother Mose and his assessor sister Betty, along with Betty’s daughter, were charged with systematically bilking government-funded social service programs. Another sister is cooperating with the feds.
And last week, a grand jury added a new alleged racketeer to the mix, former state representative and City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt.
Gill Pratt isn’t a sibling, although as Bill Jefferson’s former aide, Mose Jefferson’s longtime companion and a lieutenant in the family’s political organization, she’s as close as it gets.
According to the indictment, she also acted as an inside woman, using her public offices to steer earmarks, grants, inflated leases and even vehicles donated to the city after Katrina to various nonprofits and firms controlled by family members.
Among the new allegations: While in the Legislature, Gill Pratt secured $300,000 for two New Orleans schools to purchase software from a company for which Mose Jefferson was exclusive sales agent. He earned a $30,000 commission, a portion of which he allegedly funneled back to her. The “I Can Learn” software is also at the center of another federal case involving Mose Jefferson, who is accused of bribing former Orleans Parish School Board President Ellenese Brooks-Simms to support the School Board’s purchase of the product.
For her trouble, Gill Pratt is alleged to have received some free home repairs and use of the infamous donated Dodge Durango, which she transferred to a Jefferson family-controlled nonprofit that later hired her. The indictment says she also got a taxpayer-funded ride in the Muses parade, which Mose Jefferson supposedly financed with his ill-gotten gains…The most amazing part of the whole story is that all that taxpayer money was designated to help the most vulnerable of Bill Jefferson’s, Betty Jefferson’s and Renee Gill Pratt’s constituents.
When government grows, corruption flows.
It’s that simple.
Flashback August 2008: Jason Mattera asks former Rep. Jefferson for some cold cash tips…