On Friday, Rep. William Jefferson pled not guilty to charges that he took more than $500,000 in bribes and used that money to bribe government officials in Nigeria in order to broker business deals.  After Jefferson’s plea, the judge made him surrender his passport and released him on $100,000 bond. He will be allowed to travel in Washington D.C. and Louisiana, but the approval of the court will be required for him to travel anywhere else. Despite the fact that he was videotaped taking a $100,000 bribe from an informant in 2005, and that the FBI claims to have eight file cabinets of evidence against him, Jefferson still maintains that he is innocent. “I am absolutely innocent of the charges that have been leveled against me,” Jefferson said. “I’m going to fight my heart out to clear my name.”

The problem Jefferson has is not only was he videotaped taking the money, but the FBI recovered $90,000 of the bribe money in a freezer in his Washington D.C. home. However, the congressman claims to have an explanation for this too. “The $90,000 was the FBI’s money,” he said. “The FBI gave it to me as part of its plan, part of their plan, that I would give it to the Nigerian vice president, but I did not do that. When all the facts are understood, I trust that I will be vindicated.” Is Jefferson claiming that he was working for the FBI as an informant? If this is the case, then why would the FBI arrest him and take the money back? It seems to me that no matter how good Jefferson’s attorneys are they are going to have a difficult time explaining away 8 file cabinets worth of evidence.

If Jefferson is convicted on all 16 counts, he could face a maximum of 235 years in federal prison. I am always reluctant to call a person guilty before their trial, but when the FBI has audio, video, and written evidence is this great a quantity, it is a pretty safe bet that the defendant broke the law. Jefferson’s plea of not guilty is almost delusional. Unless he pled not guilty in the hopes of working out a plea deal, I can’t understand why he would want to go trial with all this evidence against him.

This case illustrates once again that corruption knows no political party. For every Duke Cunningham there is a William Jefferson. The corruption won’t stop until we the people get the special interest money out of politics. The problem is that most Americans don’t seem to care. To them, Jefferson is just another corrupt politician, but it is this same citizen apathy that allows the corruption problem to grow.

Jefferson’s quotes came from here.

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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