WASHINGTON — Attorneys for disgraced former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson are nearing a deal with federal prosecutors to avoid a new trial on federal corruption charges and settle on a new sentence, according to documents filed in federal court.
The former nine-term Democratic congressman from New Orleans, who was convicted in 2009 on 11 federal corruption counts, was freed from prison last month after serving just over five years of his original 13-year sentence.
The judge handling Jefferson's case, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis of Virginia, tossed out seven of those counts in October, based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that narrowed the definition of official corruption.
Both sides indicated an agreement in the case could be struck as early as Wednesday. Jefferson is scheduled to be resentenced by Ellis on Friday.
Federal prosecutors and Jefferson's attorneys wrote just before Thanksgiving they were nearing an agreement to settle the case without "the need for further litigation" in a joint filing asking Ellis to extend a deadline for presentencing arguments.
Attorneys outlined an agreement during a conference call with Ellis on Monday, according to minutes of the call filed in the federal court record, but they indicated the deal hadn't formally been accepted by both sides.
Prosecutors told the judge on Monday that U.S. Department of Justice officials would still need to review the agreement, according to the minutes of the call.
Federal prosecutors asked Monday for more time to decide whether they will retry former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson on a slew of corruption co…
U.S. Attorney Dana Boente's office in the Eastern District of Virginia had previously requested additional time to decide whether to take Jefferson — now 70 years old — back to trial on the vacated corruption charges.
An attorney for Jefferson declined to comment on the case. A spokesperson for Boente's office couldn't be reached Tuesday afternoon and did not return a message seeking comment.
Jefferson's downfall came amid dramatic FBI raids on his home and congressional offices. The case attracted plenty of notoriety, especially after agents found $90,000 in cash stashed in Jefferson's home freezer, the bills wrapped in tin foil and stuffed in food boxes.
The then-congressman was accused of accepting the cash as bribes from businessmen seeking his help with a variety of schemes related to projects in Africa.
Jefferson's initial 13-year prison sentence remains the longest term ever handed down to a member of Congress. But Ellis ordered Jefferson's immediate release from a federal prison in Louisiana earlier this year while the judge considered a potential new sentence in the case.
Citing recent jurisprudence, Ellis ruled on Oct. 4 that jurors at Jefferson's trial were given an overly broad definition of the sort of "official act" required to convict a public official of quid pro quo corruption. That led Ellis to toss out seven of the 11 charges on which Jefferson was convicted.
Former nine-term U.S. Rep. William Jefferson is going free, at least for now, a federal judge has ruled.
Ellis' recent ruling relied on a landmark 2016 U.S. Supreme Court case that imposed higher standards of proof for federal prosecutors in public corruption cases. The court, in overturning the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, ruled that prosecutors must prove a direct relationship between gifts or payments and specific official actions by government officials.
The Supreme Court decision has prompted a wave of new appeals from other public officials who were convicted in corruption cases.
But Jefferson, unlike McDonnell, didn't see his conviction completely overturned. Ellis left intact the New Orleans politician's convictions on two conspiracy counts and a count of violating the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act.
The three remaining convictions mean Ellis could potentially send Jefferson back to prison under a new sentence. Ellis originally sentenced Jefferson to a 156-month prison term on the RICO count alone.