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May 31, 2006

William Jefferson Update

More on the raid on William Jefferson's Congressional office.

First, it appears that Jefferson was not merely refusing to cooperate, but was actively covering up evidence of criminal conduct.

The Justice Department yesterday vigorously defended the recent weekend raid of Rep. William J. Jefferson's Capitol Hill office as part of a bribery investigation, asserting that the Democratic lawmaker attempted to hide documents from FBI agents while they were searching his New Orleans home last August.

The government questioned in a 34-page motion filed in U.S. District Court here whether it could have obtained all the materials it had sought in a subpoena if it had not launched the surprise raid on Jefferson's congressional office May 20. According to the government filing, an FBI agent caught Jefferson slipping documents into a blue bag in the living room of his New Orleans home during a search.

"It is my belief that when Congressman Jefferson placed documents into the blue bag, he was attempting to conceal documents that were relevant to the investigation," FBI agent Stacey E. Kent of New Orleans stated in an affidavit that was part of the government's court submission. The document was filed in response to Jefferson's lawsuit demanding that the government return to him documents seized during the raid on his Capitol Hill office 11 days ago.

* * *

Last Aug. 3, FBI agents searched Jefferson's New Orleans home while the congressman and family members were present. Kent said she was assigned to watch Jefferson and his family during the search, according to her affidavit accompanying the government motion yesterday.

She said she observed him looking at several pieces of paper on a table. At one point, she said, he asked to see a copy of the subpoena.

"After a copy had been brought to him and he reviewed it, I observed Congressman Jefferson then take the subpoena and the documents he had been reading earlier and place them together under his elbow on the kitchen table."

At one point, she said, he moved to the living room, which had just been searched, and sat on a recliner. While sitting, he slipped the subpoena and the documents into a blue bag that he knew had already been searched, Kent's affidavit said.

"After several minutes, I approached Congressman Jefferson and told him that I needed to look at the documents that he had placed into the bag," the agent stated. "Congressman Jefferson told me the documents were subpoenas."

He finally pulled out the documents that were from a B.K. Son. The search warrant had asked for all communications between Jefferson and Son, the affidavit said. Son is the chief technology officer of iGate.

is it any wonder that Jefferson was not notified, and that those who might help with his obstruction of the investigation were not allowed in the office during the search?

And another group has weighed in on the legality of the search. And once again, the smart money is with the Justice Department in holding that the Speech and Debate Clause is not an absolute shield for criminal congresscritters.

A legal watchdog group insists that the FBI's recent raid of Louisiana Democratic Congressman William Jefferson's office was perfectly legal, despite the subsequent complaints about the raid by both Republican and Democratic leaders of the House.

"Nowhere in the Constitution is there immunity from investigation for members of Congress. It just isn't there," said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. "There is nothing there that says that they can't be subject to the same type of investigatory processes as every other American. They're American citizens."

* * *

... Boehm accused Hastert and Pelosi of "making an argument that they know does not exist."

"They can't point to a single court case. They can't point to any section or clause of the Constitution. And so when I say they're making the argument in bad faith, it's in bad faith because it's not there," Boehm told Cybercast News Service.

* * *

... Boehm argued that members of Congress deserve to be treated in the same manner as anyone else who might have broken the law.

"I think the American public is entitled to know that members of Congress who break the law are going to be investigated and then prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," he said. "And when Republican and Democratic leaders try to stop that they're sending a message and the message is: we're above the law. And that's the wrong message."

Well said!





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