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.