[Please scroll down, there are three posts today]
Today, former Congressman William Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison. He was convicted in early August of a variety of charges (solicitation of bribes, honest services wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering, and conspiracy)(see here for the DOJ release).
However, he was acquitted on the substantive FCPA antibribery charge.
As mentioned above, Jefferson was convicted of conspiracy, but what conspiracy was unclear as the indictment charged conspiracy to solicit bribes, to commit honest services wire fraud, and to violate the FCPA.
Problem is, the jury was instructed that to convict it only needed to find Jefferson guilty on two out of three of those counts.
In announcing the jury verdict, the court did not specify which counts the jury agreed on … the jury may have concluded that Jefferson conspired to violate the FCPA or it may have not. (See here for my prior post). See here for what others have said.
This uncertainty / ambiguity, it would seem, matters little to the DOJ as its sentencing memorandum in the Jefferson case says that “… as egregious and illegal as [Jefferson’s] bribe solicitations were, Congressman Jefferson further compounded his criminal culpability by conspiring with others to pay a bribe to the then-sitting Vice President of Nigeria.” (p. 6).
Given the above, this statement would seem to be a bit of a stretch based on the jury’s verdict.
Sure, the DOJ sentencing memorandum mentions the jury’s verdict on this issue, but it relegates the verdict to a mere footnote. Here is the footnote in its entirety:
“The government recognizes that the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty” to the charge contained in Count 11 of the indictment, a substantive violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The government believes that the jury found Congressman Jefferson not guilty on Count 11, at least in part, because he ultimately failed to deliver the $100,000.00 in cash to the Nigerian Vice President before the Vice President departed the United States on July 31, 2005. However, the evidence fully supports the proposition that the jury, nevertheless, found that the defendant conspired to bribe the Vice President of Nigeria, an object of the conspiracy charged in Count 1, a count on which the jury returned a guilty verdict. Such a verdict would not require proof of the actual delivery of the cash to the Vice President (front end) or actual payment of the percentage of the proceeds of the joint venture (back end). The government believes that the evidence supports such a split finding by the jury as to Counts 1 and 11. Although delivery of the cash to the Vice President of Nigeria was not a legal pre-requisite to finding Congressman Jefferson guilty of Count 11, it offers a compelling explanation for the jury’s split verdict. Finally, the government recognizes that such a split verdict can never be completely confirmed because the conspiracy charged in Count 1 contained three objects, one of them being the charge related to the bribe of the Vice President of Nigeria. The verdict form completed by the jury on August 5, 2009 did not require the jury to delineate which, if not all, of the objects charged in the conspiracy in Count 1 were found to have been proved, only that at least one of the objects was proven by the government beyond a reasonable doubt.”
As if relegating a jury verdict to a footnote is not unsettling enough, yesterday Assistant Attorney General Breuer in his speech (see here for the post) was so bold as to say this:
“In the past few months, we have the completed the trials of the Greens in California, of Mr. Bourke in New York and of former Congressman William Jefferson in Virginia. In each of these cases, individuals were found guilty of FCPA violations and face jail time.”