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Jury hits ex-congressman with $470,000 forfeiture

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Jury rules for $470,653 asset forfeiture against former congressman
  • NEW: Jury agreed unanimously with prosecutors that assets were linked to crimes
  • William Jefferson was found guilty on 11 of 16 counts of corruption
  • In 2005, federal agents said they found $90,000 in his freezer
From Paul Courson
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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- The jury that convicted former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson on 11 counts of corruption said Thursday that he should forfeit almost half a million dollars in assets derived from criminal activity.

Former Rep. William Jefferson arrives at U.S. District Court with his wife, Andrea, on June 9.

Former Rep. William Jefferson arrives at U.S. District Court with his wife, Andrea, on June 9.

After deliberating for almost three hours, the panel voted unanimously to agree with prosecutors that the assets were linked with the crimes, except for one alleged bribe payment. The jury then voted, again unanimously, to set the total forfeiture at $470,653, which included money deposited in two bank accounts, according to Peter Carr of the U.S. Department of Justice.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis will decide later what happens to the assets, including who owns them and if they are available for forfeiture.

Jefferson, who was convicted Wednesday on 11 of the 16 corruption charges against him, remains free after swearing to pay $50,000 bond if he violates conditions the judge imposed, including travel restrictions.

"He used his influence and his power to enrich himself and his family," U.S. Attorney Dana Boente said after Wednesday's verdict in the case that included the discovery of $90,000 cash hidden in the freezer of his Washington home.

Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana who lost re-election to Congress last year after serving nine terms, will be sentenced October 30. He faces a maximum possible sentence of 150 years in prison. Video Watch more on Jefferson's conviction »

The jury convicted Jefferson on four bribery counts, three counts of money laundering, three counts of wire fraud and one count of racketeering. He was acquitted on five other counts including wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Jefferson was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 4, 2007, about two years after federal agents said they found the money in his freezer. Authorities said the cash was part of a payment in marked bills from an FBI informant in a transaction captured on video.

After Wednesday's verdict on the fifth day of jury deliberations, Jefferson's lead defense attorney, Robert Trout, told reporters he plans to appeal and was reviewing the government's case, the judge's instructions to the jury and other factors he may use to challenge the convictions.

"We're very disappointed that the jury disagreed with us," Trout said.

When Jefferson was asked how he was feeling, he smiled briefly and answered, "I'm holding up," before walking away.

Boente said the verdict showed that "no person, not even a congressman, is above the law." Asked what might have turned the case in the prosecution's favor, Boente said: "We always thought that a powerful piece of evidence in this case was $90,000 in a freezer."

Jefferson was accused of using his congressional clout between 2001 and 2005 to solicit and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for himself and his family in exchange for promoting products and services in Africa, especially Nigeria, and elsewhere.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Jefferson lost his House seat to Republican Anh Joseph Cao in a December 2008 election.


Cao issued a statement saying, "This is a difficult day for the people of New Orleans and Louisiana, but now we can turn the page on a negative past to focus on a positive future. My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Jefferson and his family during this time."

As a representative, Jefferson served on the House Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on trade and on the Budget Committee, and he co-chaired the caucus on Africa Trade and Investment as well as the caucus on Nigeria.

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