The three judges hearing the challenge by Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) to the 2006 search of his congressional office may issue a quick decision, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said he did not want to add much more time to the 2-year-old investigation. At issue is the first-ever federal raid of a sitting congressman’s office, in which 15 FBI agents spent 18 hours in May 2006 collecting records and securing the office’s computer hard drives.
The search was part of a government investigation into allegations that a small Kentucky firm gave $367,500 to a company controlled by Jefferson’s family in return for the congressman’s help winning contracts in Western Nigeria. Jefferson’s attorney, Robert Trout, said the Constitution provides a privilege for legislative materials that is “absolute and can’t be violated because the government says ‘we have a big criminal case to bring.’ ” Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben said that the government didn’t have any interest in legislative records. FBI agents videotaped a cooperating witness, Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody, handing Jefferson a briefcase with $100,000 in marked $100 bills. The government believed the money was intended to bribe the vice president of Nigeria. Instead, agents found all but $10,000 of the money in the freezer of Jefferson’s home.