ALEXANDRIA, Va. >> Federal prosecutors are recommending that a former Louisiana congressman serve no more jail time now that many of the convictions against him have been overturned.
William Jefferson, 70, a Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans, has served more than five years in a federal prison after being convicted on bribery charges. His case garnered headlines in 2005 after he was caught hiding $90,000 cash in his freezer following a government sting.
But he was released from prison last month. A judge ruled that seven counts of conviction against him should be tossed out because of a recent Supreme Court ruling making it more difficult to convict public officials on bribery charges, and that he was entitled to a new sentencing hearing on the remaining three conviction counts.
Jefferson was initially sentenced to 13 years; his new sentencing hearing is scheduled for Friday.
In a court document made public Thursday, prosecutors indicate that they and defense attorneys will jointly recommend a sentence of time served. The recommendation also leaves in place a $189,000 fine.
The judge, though, will not be bound by the recommendation at Friday’s hearing. Theoretically he could reimpose the 13-year sentence he handed down back in 2009.
If the judge imposes additional jail time, though, Jefferson will have the right to back out of the agreement and could seek to have the remaining counts overturned.
Jefferson was convicted of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes and seeking millions more in exchange for brokering business deals in Africa. The 2005 raid of his Washington home that turned up cash stuffed in frozen food boxes made him fodder for late-night comedians.
Last month, U.S. Senior Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria ruled that a new sentencing hearing is necessary because the Supreme Court has subsequently changed what constitutes “an official act” for which a public official can be convicted of bribery. He ordered that Jefferson be freed from custody while awaiting a resentencing.
The deal, if approved by the judge, would end the case entirely, and prosecutors would give up the option to pursue a retrial on the seven counts that were tossed out last month.