U.S. Supreme Court gets Jefferson appeal

Feb. 19, 2009 at 2:39 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., says in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that 14 of the 16 corruption charges against him should be dropped.

Jefferson's attorneys claim in the appeal filed this week a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia should be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in relation to the former official's May 26 trial on corruption charges, The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans said Thursday.

The attorneys allege the lower court ruling ignored grand jury testimony by Jefferson regarding the passage of an African trade bill. That action by the appeals court violated the Constitution's speech or debate clause, the attorneys claim in the U.S. Supreme Court appeal.

"The speech or debate clause is a unique constitutional provision that creates an absolute privilege for legislative activities within its scope," Jefferson's attorneys said. "It protects legislators not only from conviction based on legislative acts, but also from having to defend themselves as a result of those acts."

The Times-Picayune said the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide on the appeal before the May 26 trial date.

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