Bill Jefferson, behind bars

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 4, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Updated Friday, May 4 at 6:42 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

William Jefferson arrived at the federal correctional center in Beaumont, shortly before his Friday noon deadline to surrender.

The former New Orleans congressman will be housed in the low-security wing of the sprawling facility in southeast Texas, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said.

He began a 13-year sentence for bribery, racketeering and other crimes.

In 2009, a Virginia jury found him guilty in an influence peddling scheme involving tele-communications contracts in West Africa.

Jefferson's longtime pollster, Dr. Silas Lee, said family loyalty may have been the former congressman's downfall.

"He was a smart man, however, he was consumed with trying to ensure that his family, apparently, would not suffer the trial and tribulations that he experienced as someone from Providence [a small town in north Louisiana] living in poverty,” Lee said.

Federal investigators caught Jefferson on surveillance video receiving a briefcase containing a $100,000 cash bribe.

Most of the money later turned up in the freezer of his Capitol Hill home.

Lee said Jefferson's demise led to the unraveling of his New Orleans political machine, the Progressive Democrats.

"You had William Jefferson who was a congressman. You also had a sister who was an assessor. You also had in-laws, who happened to be judges. At one time, the daughter was a state representative," Lee said.

While Bill Jefferson's legacy has been tarnished by his corruption convictions and now his imprisonment, many former constituents in the Central City neighborhood where his political career grew, still remember the good things he did, first in the state senate and then in the halls of congress.

"I thought he was a good congressman and he helped people," said Irma Watson. "You don't look at everything bad. Everybody's got something in their closet."

"I admired him," said Charles Hugger. "I voted for him. I'm just kind of saddened that this happened to him. But, like me, if you do wrong, you go to jail."

While Jefferson serves out his sentence, his lawyer said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is still under consideration.

 

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