Jefferson, 62, appeared in U.S. District in Alexandria, Va., where Judge T.S. Ellis gave him less than the 27-33 years prosecutors wanted but more than the less than 10 Jefferson's attorneys had hoped he would receive, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported.
Ellis said he found Jefferson's conduct "a cancer on the body politic."
The former nine-term Democratic congressman appeared calm as the sentence was read in the packed courtroom. He declined to make a statement on advise of his attorney, The Times-Picayune said.
The judge did not say where Jefferson would serve his prison term or set a date for when he is to "self-report" to whatever correctional facility is designated, the newspaper said. Jefferson's lawyers had requested a Jan. 4 reporting date.
The judge didn't rule on whether Jefferson may remain free while he appeals his Aug. 6 conviction, a process likely to take months.
In seeking a heavier sentence, prosecutors cited Jefferson's efforts to obtain millions of dollars in payments and stock to family-owned businesses in return for his assistance in winning potentially lucrative contracts in Western Africa.
Justin Bieber crashes Drake Bell's album release party
Members of Congress to keep receiving porn magazine