Hat Tip: By Cain Burdeau, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS – Supporters of a Democratic congressman charged with bribery and money laundering harkened to their civil rights days on Wednesday as they denounced the allegations against U.S. Rep. William Jefferson.
The group, including ministers and the president of the local chapter of the NAACP, alleged the 16-count corruption indictment was the work of a Republican White House and Justice Department scheming to target black Democratic leaders and shift attention from legal troubles of Republican congressmen.
“When it’s all over, Bill Jefferson will stand up like Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. He will stand up in the South and he will be victorious,” said the Rev. Samson “Skip” Alexander.
The news conference attended by about 50 people was a sign Jefferson hasn’t lost friends in New Orleans, which re-elected him to a ninth term from Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District in December 2006 despite anprobe of his African business dealings.
Prosecutors say Jefferson used his influence as co-chairman of the congressional Africa Investment and Trade Caucus to broker deals in numerous African nations, and that he demanded kickbacks for himself and for family members. He is also charged with bribing a Nigerian official.
He allegedly received more than $500,000 in bribes and demanded millions more between 2000 and 2005. He has pleaded not guilty.
The group said they would raise money for his legal defense and offer public relations help through the Justice for Jefferson Committee.
Tracie Washington, a civil rights lawyer, asked the audience to give Jefferson the benefit of the doubt.
Danatus King, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said, “it’s important that all of us keep our eyes on the prize and that prize is one word, and that one word is justice.”
Asked to comment on allegations aired at the news conference, Bryan Sierra, a Justice Department spokesman, said “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.” White House spokesman Blair Jones also declined to comment.
Not everyone in attendance at Wednesday’s news conference expressed undivided loyalty to Jefferson.
Sitawi Jahi, a 54-year-old youth development program director, said he came “to gather facts.” But he said his confidence in Jefferson was strained by some of the evidence, in particular an allegation the FBI found $90,000 in bribe money in the congressman’s freezer.
“That’s hard to explain,” he said.
Jefferson’s legal defense fund, set up about 18 months ago, has about $140,000, according to Walter Wilkerson, the lawyer handling the fund.
I wish these Negroes would stop drinking from the bitter chalice of Dollar Bill’s B.S. Ain’t a damn thing in the Ninth Ward been re-built and they are defending this Nigra?