Editorial: Jefferson will have 13 years to ponder how much misdeeds cost him

The sad saga of former Congressman William Jefferson apparently ended last month when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal of his corruption conviction.

The appeal of Jefferson, who earned the nickname ‘‘Dollar Bill’’ after being arrested on bribery, racketeering and conspiracy charges, could be likened to a drowning man grasping for a straw to save his life.

He was originally caught red-handed on video shot by the FBI accepting a briefcase containing $100,000 that Jefferson said he needed to lobby the then vice president of Nigeria regarding a telecommunications project. Later, $90,000 of that cash was found in the freezer of Jefferson’s Washington, D.C. home.

Jefferson, the first black congressman elected from Louisiana since Reconstruction, was accused of accepting $450,000 in payments from businesses for his help in promoting contracts in western Africa.

Jefferson obviously knew he was on the wrong side of the street. In one taped conversation, Jefferson told the president of a company that if not done right, they could all wind up in jail.

That’s just what eventually happened after a federal jury in Virginia convicted Dollar Bill on 11 of the 16 corruption counts brought by the U.S. Justice Department.

Jefferson’s attorneys unsuccessfully argued that he should be found not guilty because by lobbying a foreign government he was not ‘‘acting for or on behalf of the United States.’’

It’s a wonder they weren’t laughed out of the courtroom.

Following the conviction, the judge in Jefferson’s original trial, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, described his conduct as “a cancer on the body politic.’’

A three-judge 4th Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously rejected an appeal by Jefferson’s lawyers, upholding 10 of the 11 guilty counts.

The appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court appears to be Jefferson’s last hope.

He now faces serving a 13-year prison sentence in a minimum-security federal prison in Beaumont, Texas, where he has been jailed since May of this year.

And he faces the fact that his legacy won’t be about the nine terms he served in Congress representing his constituents in the New Orleans area, but the fact that his greed cost him his freedom, stained his reputation and shamed his family’s name.

He’ll have 13 years behind bars to ponder just how much misdeeds cost him.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.