ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A former Louisiana congressman who famously hid $90,000 cash in his freezer was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison for taking bribes, the longest term ever imposed on a congressman for bribery charges.
William Jefferson, a Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans for nearly 20 years, was convicted in August of taking roughly $500,000 in bribes and seeking millions more in exchange for using his influence to broker business deals in Africa.
The sentence was still far less than the nearly 30 years prosecutors had sought.
Agents investigating the case found $90,000 wrapped in foil and hidden in boxes of frozen pie crusts in his freezer.
Prosecutors had asked a judge to follow federal guidelines and sentence him to at least 27 years. The defense asked for less than 10 years, arguing a stiffer sentence would be far longer than those imposed on congressmen convicted of similar crimes in recent years, none of whom was sentenced to more than a decade.
Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., for example, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison after pleading guilty in 2005 to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for taking bribes from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Former Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, served a seven-year sentence after being convicted in a 2002 trial of bribery and racketeering.
Prosecutor Mark Lytle said that, had Jefferson’s schemes come to full fruition, he stood to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in 11 separate bribery schemes.
“His activity represented the most extensive and pervasive pattern of corruption in the history of Congress,” Lytle said.