By the end of the week, we could know whether former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson will stand trial a second time on federal corruption charges.
The likely answer is no. And it should be.
Earlier this year, the judge who presided over Jefferson's 2009 trial tossed out seven of the 11 counts on which he was convicted after the U.S. Supreme Court sharply curtailed the definition of a politician's "official acts" in a separate case involving former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
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U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis of Virginia also ordered Jefferson released from prison after having served just over five years of his original 13-year sentence, a good indication that he would likely be resentenced on the remaining charges to time served. That is, assuming the feds don't seek to retry him.
The Advocate reported this week that attorneys for Jefferson and the federal government are close to agreeing to make that likelihood official, and there's really no good reason not to come to such an agreement.
Jefferson, whose rise from abject poverty was as dramatic as his fall from grace, is 70. His time has passed. It's passed in New Orleans, where his once-mighty political organization is defunct and his surviving relatives off the public stage. It's passed in Washington, where his much younger successor, Cedric Richmond, has already achieved a goal he never attained, becoming chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
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He'll never again work in politics, and he'll never again be in a position to try to use his position for personal gain. He's already paid a steep price for his misdeeds, and even with the reduced sentence, his story should still serve as a cautionary tale for other greedy pols.
The ultimate outcome of the case is a disappointment to those who think elected officials exercise, and can potentially abuse, influence even when they're not actually legislating. That strikes me as an awfully naïve view of the nature of power.
But the Supreme Court has declared it the operable standard. Putting Jefferson on trial again isn't going to change that.
It's time to put the matter to rest....Read more