Rep. William Jefferson has filed motions challenging his criminal complaint and the venue of his trial. The motions are actually quite strong on their face, particularly the notion that the government failed to allege a connection between the alleged bribe and some official act. In cases like U.S. v. Sun Diamond Growers of California, this was a key element — in that case leading the Surpreme Court to toss out the charge against former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. Epsy successfully argued that the sports tickets and luggage from a lobbyist had no connection to an official use of his authority. It is a major weakness in the government’s indictment due to either lack of evidence or poor drafting — missing an element under a violation of 18 U.S.C. 201(b).
Jefferson is also challenging venue in Alexandria. The Justice Department openly uses the eastern district, called the rocket docket, to get an advantage. The court is viewed as deeply conservative and extremely pro-government. With Zacarias Moussoui, the government flew the defendant across the country to put him in the more conservative court (with the more conservative jury pool). In the Jefferson case, this comes with the added element of moving him from a majority black jurisdiction and jury pool in Washington to a majority white jurisdiction and jury pool in Alexandria. Nevertheless, venue motions are routinely denied.
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