Federal prosecutors asked Monday for more time to decide whether they will retry former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson on a slew of corruption counts that a judge threw out this month while freeing the disgraced ex-congressman from jail, at least temporarily.
In the meantime, Jefferson's attorneys are asking U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, of Virginia, to remove the GPS monitor that Jefferson is required to wear 24 hours a day as a condition of his release pending a resentencing on three remaining counts that Ellis upheld.
U.S. Attorney Dana Boente's office in the Eastern District of Virginia requested an additional 60 days to make a decision on retrying Jefferson, citing the complexity and age of the case.
The former nine-term congressman from New Orleans, who is now 70, had served more than five years of a 13-year sentence before Ellis vacated seven of the 10 counts against him and cut him loose pending a scheduled Dec. 1 resentencing. That date would be pushed back if Ellis grants the request.
"In evaluating whether to seek to retry this case, the United States must review the record and determine what testimony from witnesses would be available today. The United States must also assess appeal and other options," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lytle wrote, adding that Jefferson's attorneys don't object to the delay.
Jefferson still could return to prison even if prosecutors decline to retry him on the vacated charges: two counts of solicitation of bribes by a public official, two counts of depriving citizens of honest services by wire fraud and three counts of money laundering.
That's because Ellis kept intact Jefferson's convictions on two conspiracy counts and a count of violating the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO. That last charge came with a 156-month prison term when Ellis first sentenced Jefferson. But legal experts say federal probation officials must start over in calculating a new recommended sentencing range for Jefferson. In any case, Ellis could veer above or below that range.
Former nine-term U.S. Rep. William Jefferson is going free, at least for now, a federal judg…
Jefferson was serving the longest sentence ever handed to a congressman when Ellis ordered his immediate release, reasoning that "there is no assurance that Jefferson would be required to serve a sentence beyond what he has already served."
A jury convicted Jefferson in 2009 on 11 counts, 10 of which survived an earlier appeal. He was accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes over a series of schemes involving businessmen seeking his help on various projects in Africa. An FBI investigation culminated with a series of raids on Jefferson's offices and homes, one of which notoriously turned up $90,000 in his freezer, wrapped in foil and packed in food boxes.
But Ellis ruled on Oct. 4 that the instructions he gave the jury about the definition of an "official act" were too broad with regard to seven of those charges, in light of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that narrowed the definition of an illegal quid pro quo in political corruption cases.
Ellis granted Jefferson's release under the same conditions that applied when he was free on appeal. Among them was 24-hour GPS monitoring. In a motion on Monday, Jefferson's attorneys argued that the monitor "is heavy and causes significant discomfort," and that it's unnecessary.
The motion says federal prosecutors do not object to the request.