May 26, 2006

Ex-Jefferson aide gets 8 years for bribery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former aide to Rep. William
Jefferson has been sentenced to eight years in prison for
helping the Louisiana Democrat solicit bribes in an African
telecommunications venture, the Justice Department said on

Brett Pfeffer, 37, was also fined $24,000 for his role in a
bribery scandal that created a standoff between Congress and
the Bush administration for much of the past week.

The FBI has not brought charges against Jefferson, but
revealed last weekend it videotaped him accepting $100,000 in
bribes and found $90,000 of that money in his freezer.

Jefferson, whose district encompasses most of
hurricane-wracked New Orleans, has maintained his innocence and
has said he plans to run for re-election in November.
Congressional leaders of both parties objected after the FBI
searched Jefferson's Capitol Hill office last weekend, saying
the raid violated constitutional protections that shield
lawmakers from executive-branch harassment.

The White House on Thursday ordered the material seized in
the search to be sealed for 45 days while the dispute is

Pfeffer, who worked as a legislative assistant to Jefferson
from 1995 to 1998, pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to
commit bribery and aiding and abetting the solicitation of

In his plea agreement, Pfeffer said Jefferson sought a
stake in a venture to sell Internet equipment to Nigeria and
Ghana in return for his help setting it up. Pfeffer said he
passed along the request to the head of the investment firm
where he worked.

A Kentucky businessman involved in the venture pleaded
guilty to bribery charges earlier in May and said he had paid
over $400,000 in bribes to a company set up in the name of
Jefferson's wife and children.

Jefferson's lawyer was not immediately available for