Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, the first African-American elected to Congress from Louisiana since Reconstruction, was sentenced on Nov. 13 to 13 years in prison on charges of corruption.
District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, Va. handed down a sentence that was a little more than what the defense had hoped for and significantly less than the prosecution requested.
According to the Associated Press, Ellis said that he took the past service of Jefferson, a Democrat, into account when deciding his sentence but said that, “public corruption must be dealt with severely.”
Jefferson’s sentence is the longest given to a congressman, the AP reported. Former Republican congressman from California, Randy Cunningham, was sentenced to more than 8 years for taking bribes amounting to $2.4 million.
Jefferson, 62, on the advice of his lawyers, did not make a statement and barely spoke during the proceedings, the AP reported. He did confirm for the judge that he’d read the sentencing reports and was satisfied with the service of his legal team.
Prosecutors filed a motion to have Jefferson taken into custody immediately. The defense asked that he be allowed to remain on bond until an appeal can be made and, if that’s not possible, that he be allowed to turn himself into begin his sentence on Jan. 4, so he can spend Christmas with his family. Ellis did not rule on the issue on Nov. 13.
In August, Jefferson was convicted on 11 charges of receiving nearly $500,000 in bribes in a scheme the prosecutor, Mark Lytle, claims would have brought Jefferson billions if it had been completed.
Jefferson must return the $470,653.47, the AP reports, that a jury determined was distributed to shell companies held under Jefferson family control.
Jefferson’s lead attorney, Robert Trout, has asked Ellis to request that Jefferson be assigned to a “low-security prison camp” facility in Pensacola, Fla. Ellis agreed to request a low-security facility, but “said only that he would recommend a facility close to New Orleans,” according to the AP.
An appeal for Jefferson, who served nine terms in Congress, must be filed within 10 days. Jefferson is free on bond until the resolution of a Nov. 18 hearing, during which Ellis will hear arguments about whether Jefferson is a flight risk.