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Closing arguments in Jefferson trial

July 29, 2009 at 7:00 PM   |   Comments

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ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 29 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson violated his oath of office by taking bribes, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday in her closing argument.

In Alexandria, Va., Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Bellows said Jefferson, D-La., "lined his own pockets with cash," The Washington Post reported. Jefferson allegedly took the money from telecommunications companies that wanted to do business in Africa.

"It's time, at long last, to bring Congressman Jefferson to justice," Bellows said.

However, in his closing argument, Jefferson lead attorney Robert Trout said the federal government had made a crime of the congressman's actions when they really were in the "gray area" of ethics and the appearance of impropriety, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported.

"There is a difference between a gray area and committing a crime," he said, the newspaper reported. " ... What is appropriate, what is ethical is not the issue in this case."

Before Bellows began, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III refused to dismiss an obstruction of justice count, the Times-Picayune reported. Jefferson faces 16 criminal counts.

With both sides completing their arguments, Ellis said he planned to give the jury instructions Thursday

Jefferson, who lost his seat last year in a close election, faces a lengthy prison term if convicted.

The most notorious development in the case was the FBI's discovery of thousands of dollars in cash concealed in a freezer during a search of Jefferson's home in Virginia.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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