Judge orders release of former congressman convicted of bribery

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A federal judge has ordered a former Louisiana congressman convicted of bribery to be immediately released from prison.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. Senior Judge T.S. Ellis III ordered the release of former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who was convicted in 2009, because of a 2016 Supreme Court decision changing what constitutes an “official act” by a public official in bribery cases. 

A new sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 1, the AP reported. 


Jefferson was convicted of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes in exchange for brokering business deals in Africa. The former congressman was caught in an FBI raid hiding $90,000 in frozen food boxes stuffed in the freezer of his Washington home.

He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, which he has been serving since 2012. Ellis tossed out seven of the 10 counts on which Jefferson was convicted, according to the AP. 

The government has until Oct. 16 to decide whether it will seek to retry the former lawmaker on the charges vacated by Ellis. 

Ellis said it was clear Jefferson was guilty of a crime and that his actions still constituted corruption under the Supreme Court’s decision, which vacated the corruption convictions of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

“No one reading this opinion should conclude that Jefferson was innocent of crime; he was not innocent of crime,” Ellis wrote.

Robert Trout, Jefferson’s attorney, told the AP in an email that he was pleased with Ellis’s decision to have his client released from prison.

“We are continuing to review the opinion, but we are obviously very pleased that Judge Ellis has ordered Mr. Jefferson’s immediate release,” he said. 

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