November 12, 2008

Judge Rejects Jefferson Appeal

A U.S. appeals court judge Wednesday upheld the corruption case against Rep. William Jefferson, clearing the way for the Louisiana Democrat to stand trial.

Rejecting Jefferson's argument that a grand jury was given evidence of Jefferson's legislative activities in violation of the Constitution's speech or debate clause -- which protects congressional proceedings -- Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert King said the case against the congressman can proceed without using any constitutionally protected legislative material.

King heard the case after Jefferson's attorneys appealed an earlier decision by U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, who also said prosecutors did not violate Jefferson's constitutional rights, The Hill reported.

"The court's decision to act as it did in assessing Jefferson's speech or debate clause claim was within its discretion and entirely appropriate," King wrote in his decision. "With the foregoing principles in mind, we are content to reject Jefferson's request for further review of the grand jury record, and we affirm the district court's refusal to dismiss the indictment."

Jefferson faces 16 corruption counts related to charges that he accepted bribes to promote business ventures in Africa.

Jefferson was scheduled to go on trial Dec. 2, but the trial had been postponed pending the appeal. A new trial date has not been set.