Jefferson challenges legality of FBI raid

Rep. William Jefferson says the FBI crossed the line when it raided his congressional office and wants a federal appeals court to order the return of documents.

Jefferson, D-La., says the raid last year was unconstitutional because it trampled on congressional independence. His lawyers are scheduled to argue that point Tuesday before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

His attorneys said nearly 19,000 pages of documents and electronic files seized by prosecutors and the FBI are covered by Congress' separation of powers privilege to shield certain legislative material from executive review.

The Justice Department countered that, if Jefferson had his way, targets of congressional bribery investigations could pick and choose what evidence to turn over to the FBI.

"In other words, the target of the search would be entitled to define the scope of the search," government attorneys said in court documents.

The raid was part of a 16-month international bribery investigation of Jefferson, who allegedly accepted $100,000 from a telecommunications businessman, $90,000 of which was later recovered in a freezer in the congressman's Louisiana home.

"Because this case involves the first time in United States history that a search warrant has been executed on a congressional office, it is vital that the remedy imposed be sufficiently stringent to deter future searches that exceed constitutional boundaries," Jefferson's team wrote.

A federal judge authorized the unprecedented 18-hour search last year, but the bulk of the investigation has essentially been on hold since last summer because of the legal fight.


  1. April-May

    $100,000 cash is “walkin’ around money” in Washington DC. You know . . . walkin’ around?

    Never know when you might have to pay a bribe, or take one from a lobbyist. And so it’s always good to have lotsa cash on hand, because it’s easier to launder that way.

    But I think we learned about the distinctions between “criminal” and “privilege of office” with Nixon.

    NRA Distinguished Life Member

  2. KayInMaine

    …and the FBI sting was done by George Bush’s FBI to show other democrats to not ‘eff’ with them. Funny that there have been no charges against Williams after all this time! Oh that’s right. It was just Georgie teaching a lesson on who is the king and who is not.

    Gawd, I hate that man’s guts.

  3. Doubtom

    but on to Jefferson’s problems. I wonder if Jefferson is one of the Congresswhores who voted to allow searches without warrants? What a delicious irony if he did.
    Why specific charges haven’t been brought against Jefferson is a puzzle; I would think that a case against any “public servant” who sees a need to stash his cash in a freezer, wouldn’t be too difficult to make.

    I’ve already thought up a good reason for Jefferson’s eccentric use of the freezer—it was too late for the bank and the freezer has a lock.
    Of course that would still leave the question of what is one of our public servants doing with $100,000 on hand?

  4. JerZGirl

    Suppose this man WERE committing crimes using his position as a buffer zone to prevent detection. If the suspect can say what they can and can’t search, then he has the perfect way to remain hidden, wouldn’t you say? I’m not immune to searches in my place of employment – why should Congressmen be? Crime is crime, regardless of who’s committing it. Even if Bush were just using intimidation to control him, it doesn’t mean Congressmen are exempt from the laws pertaining to legal search warrants, regardless of whether it’s unprecedented. If, however, Bush was using it to control someone through intimidation, Bush should be charged with a crime (among so many other crimes I can think of). Has anyone ever explained the thousands of dollars Jefferson had “on ice” in his home? I think the man is crooked, personally. And, I don’t think anyone at any level of government should be exempt from the law – including the president.

    Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.

    Wisdom is knowing not to put it in fruit salad.