Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

William J Jefferson

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Preceded by  Lindy Boggs
Occupation  Attorney
Education  Harvard University
Residence  New Orleans, Louisiana
Books  Dying Is the Easy Part
Political party  Democratic
Succeeded by  Joseph Cao
Name  William Jefferson

William J. Jefferson I Wish This Will Happen In Nigeria Jail The Corrupt So
Full Name  William Jennings Jefferson
Born  March 14, 1947 (age 68) Lake Providence East Carroll Parish Louisiana, USA (1947-03-14)
Alma mater  Southern University Harvard Law School Georgetown University Law Center
Role  Former U.S. Representative
Spouse  Andrea Jefferson (m. 1970)
Siblings  Mose Jefferson, Betty Jefferson, Brenda Jefferson Foster
Similar People  Mose Jefferson, Jim McCrery, Jalila Jefferson‑Bullock, Charlie Melancon, Richard Baker

Children  Jalila Jefferson-Bullock

William Jennings "Bill" Jefferson (born March 14, 1947) is an American former politician and convicted felon from the U.S. state of Louisiana. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for nine terms from 1991 to 2009 as a member of the Democratic Party. He represented Louisiana's 2nd congressional district, which includes much of the greater New Orleans area. He was Louisiana's first black congressman since the end of Reconstruction.


William J. Jefferson Former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson Surrenders

On November 13, 2009, Jefferson was sentenced to thirteen years in federal prison for bribery after a corruption investigation, the longest sentence ever handed down to a congressman for bribery or any other crime. He began serving that sentence in May 2012 at a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Beaumont, Texas.

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Early life and family

William J. Jefferson FileRobert L Van Antwerp Jr Mel Watt and Rep William

Jefferson was born in Lake Providence, the parish seat of East Carroll Parish in far northeastern Louisiana, where he and his eight brothers and sisters worked alongside their father – a farmer and a heavy-equipment operator for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Jeffersons were among the few African-American families in the area who actually owned their land (as opposed to sharecropping), which gave them a certain degree of respectability in the community. Nonetheless, he grew up in an environment of poverty.

In 1969, Jefferson received a bachelor's degree from historically black Southern University in Baton Rouge, where he had participated in Army ROTC; in 1969 he led a protest against substandard campus facilities and negotiated a resolution of the complaint with then-Governor John J. McKeithen. On graduation from Southern University he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army and served in a reserve capacity until 1975. In 1972, he earned a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. In 1996, he received a LLM in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. In 1972 and 1973 Jefferson began the practice of law, having initially served as a clerk for Judge Alvin Benjamin Rubin of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Jefferson is the brother of New Orleans assessor Betty Jefferson, a Democratic field operative; convicted felons Mose Jefferson and Archie Jefferson; and Brenda Jefferson Foster. He is the uncle of Angela Coleman.

Jefferson and his wife, Andrea Jefferson, have five daughters: Jamila Jefferson-Jones, Jalila Jefferson-Bullock (a former Louisiana State Representative), Jelani Jefferson Exum (a professor of law at the University of Toledo), Nailah Jefferson (a documentary filmmaker), and Akilah Jefferson. Jamila, Jalila, and Jelani are all graduates of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Nailah is a graduate of Boston University and Emerson College. Akilah, a graduate of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, attends the Tulane University School of Medicine.

Political career in New Orleans

From 1973 to 1975, Jefferson was a legislative assistant to Democratic U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., of Louisiana. Jefferson moved to New Orleans in 1976 and was elected to the Louisiana Senate in 1979, where he served until 1990. He twice unsuccessfully ran for New Orleans mayor, having, along with Ron Faucheux, first challenged Dutch Morial in the election of 1982, and then being defeated by Sidney Barthelemy in the mayoral runoff of 1986. During the 1982 mayoral race, Morial attacked Jefferson by calling him "Dollar Bill" – a nickname which has stuck to this day. Still, Jefferson was considered a rising star in Louisiana politics, with some even suggesting he would be his state's second African-American governor.

In 1990, midway through his third term in the state senate, Jefferson ran in the jungle primary for Louisiana's 2nd congressional district seat after 10-term incumbent Lindy Boggs announced her retirement. He finished first in the seven-candidate field with 24 percent of the vote. In the runoff, he defeated Marc Morial, the son of Dutch Morial, with 52 percent of the vote. He was reelected seven times.

In the House, Jefferson joined the Congressional Black Caucus. He considered running for Governor in 1995 but ultimately did not do so.

Jefferson ran for governor of Louisiana in the 1999 Louisiana gubernatorial election, and was the de facto "official" Democratic candidate. However, he lost badly to incumbent Republican Murphy J. Foster, Jr., having tallied only 29.5 percent of the vote and carrying only New Orleans (coextensive with Orleans Parish) and his native East Carroll Parish, whose seat is Lake Providence.

Local influence

Jefferson and his family controlled one of the most sophisticated and effective get-out-the-vote organizations in South Louisiana – the Progressive Democrats – the foil to which is the Black Organization for Leadership Development, founded by Jefferson nemeses Ken Carter and Jim Singleton. In 2002, the Progressive Democrats' support helped elect Jefferson's protégée Renée Gill Pratt to the New Orleans City Council. Jefferson's daughter Jalila was defeated by Rosalind Peychaud in a special election for Gill Pratt's District 91 seat in the Louisiana State House, but subsequently defeated Peychaud in the next regular election. Jefferson's Progressive Democrats organization also contributed to the election of Jefferson's sister Betty, as a municipal assessor, in 1998, 2002 and 2006. New Orleans politics substantially changed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with many former voters no longer in the city. Laura Maggi has described Mose Jefferson as "the man responsible for running the Progressive Democrats street operation" in New Orleans.

A few days after Hurricane Katrina, Jefferson used a Louisiana National Guard detachment to recover personal effects and belongings from his home. After the truck in which he and the detachment traveled became stuck, the Guard helicopter aided Jefferson's party while rescue operations were still ongoing.

2006 election

In the ensuing 2006 election cycle for Louisiana's 2nd congressional district, eight Democrats, three Republicans, and one Libertarian challengers stood for election against Jefferson.

None of the candidates obtained more than 50% of the vote on the first ballot (November 7, 2006), forcing a runoff. The two candidates who survived the first ballot were both African-American Democrats: Jefferson got 30% of the vote, and State Representative Karen Carter, who enjoyed support from the Louisiana Democratic Party’s establishment, picked up nearly all endorsements from local politicians and the local press and gathered 22% of the vote. Carter was Jefferson's first credible challenger since his initial run for Congress.

Political commentators predicted an easy victory for Carter on the second ballot (to be held on December 9, 2006). In the last week of campaign, however, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee, a law and order Democrat, urged voters not to vote for Carter. In response to Carter's criticism of Gretna police officers and Jefferson Parish deputies, who had blocked the Crescent City Connection and prevented evacuees from fleeing New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, Lee mailed out 25,000 fliers and made public statements attacking Carter. With this background the situation was particularly emotional and visceral as Orleans Parish is predominantly black and Jefferson Parish predominantly white (although not the part of Jefferson Parish in Louisiana's 2nd congressional district).

Voter turnout dwindled from 24.15% to 16.25%. While residents of the city of New Orleans gave Jefferson a slight majority over Carter, (51% to 49%); the Jefferson Parish share of the district voted for Jefferson by a staggering 71% to 29%, clearly swinging the election in his favor.

Following Jefferson's reelection, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi announced that Jefferson would not regain his seat on the Ways and Means Committee as long as he is not "cleared of wrongdoing in an ongoing federal corruption probe".

2008 campaign

In 2008, Jefferson sought re-election while under indictment for bribery. Six Democrats challenged him for the seat in the Democratic primary. The voting was delayed due to Hurricane Gustave.

In the October 4, 2008 Democratic primary, opposition to Jefferson was split among seven contenders. Some of the challengers made strong showings in their base neighborhoods but failed to garner much support in other parts of the district. Jefferson ran second, third, or even fourth in many precincts, but his 25% total was enough to give him a plurality and to send him into the runoff primary, where he faced Helena Moreno, a former TV newscaster, on November 4. Aided by overwhelming support from African-American voters on the same date as the presidential candidacy of Barack H. Obama drew them to the polls in unprecedented numbers, Jefferson won the Democratic nomination in the congressional party primary, which barred the district's 41,000 Republicans and many of its 84,000 other voters not registered as Democrats. Jefferson won the November 4 Democratic runoff.

The general election round occurred on December 6, 2008. Jefferson faced Republican candidate Anh "Joseph" Cao, Green Party candidate Malik Rahim, and Libertarian Party candidate Gregory Kahn. An earlier candidate, independent Jerry Jacobs, withdrew.

Jefferson was defeated in the general election on December 6, 2008 in a major upset by Republican nominee Cao, who had endorsements from several prominent Democrats including Moreno and City Councilwomen Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson and Stacy Head. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin endorsed Jefferson. Cao won by three percentage points. Jefferson thus became only the third Democratic incumbent since the end of Reconstruction to lose to a Republican at the federal level in Louisiana.

Jefferson's loss evoked a sensation because of the overwhelmingly Democratic nature of the district; with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+28, it is the third-most Democratic district in the South. Democrats usually win local and state races in landslides, and Barack Obama carried the district with 72 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election.

Jefferson became the third African-American incumbent Congressman to be unseated in a general election.

Corruption case

Suspecting Jefferson of bribery, the FBI raided his Congressional offices in May 2006, but he was re-elected later that year. On June 4, 2007, a federal grand jury indicted Jefferson on sixteen felony charges related to corruption. Jefferson was defeated by Republican Joseph Cao on December 6, 2008, being the most senior Democrat to lose re-election that year. In 2009, he was tried in Virginia on corruption charges. On August 5, 2009, he was found guilty of eleven of the sixteen corruption counts. On November 13, 2009, Jefferson was sentenced to thirteen years, the longest sentence yet handed down to a congressman for bribery or any other crime.

On March 26, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed Jefferson's conviction and sentence on ten of the eleven counts on which he was convicted. The Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the conviction on one count of the indictment, involving alleged wire fraud, holding that venue on that count was improper in the federal court in Virginia.

On April 20, 2012, U.S. District Court judge T.S. Ellis revoked Jefferson's bail and ordered that he report to prison to begin serving his thirteen-year sentence by May 4, 2012.

On May 4, 2012, Jefferson surrendered to the Bureau of Prisons facility in Beaumont, Texas to begin serving his 13-year sentence. He is scheduled for release on August 30, 2023.

Jefferson owes $5 million in legal fees and has filed for bankruptcy. On May 1, 2015, Jefferson was permanently disbarred by the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

Accusations against relatives

On May 22, 2009, Betty Jefferson, Mose Jefferson, Angela Coleman, and Mose's longtime companion, former New Orleans City Councilwoman Renée Gill Pratt, were indicted for violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. On June 5, 2009, all the defendants pleaded not guilty. Brenda Jefferson Foster is serving as a witness in the government's case against them. Mose Jefferson is also facing a separate trial for bribing Orleans Parish School Board president Ellenese Brooks-Simms. Archie Jefferson is a convicted felon. On July 28, 2009, United States federal judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle delayed the start of the racketeering trial to January 25, 2010.

On January 10, 2010, Mose Jefferson was convicted of bribery and was sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

On February 26, 2010, Betty Jefferson and Angela Coleman pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy and were expected to testify for the government in the fraud and corruption trial against Mose Jefferson and Pratt.

Electoral history

Mayor of New Orleans, 1982

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First Ballot, February 6, 1982

Second Ballot, March 20, 1982

Mayor of New Orleans, 1986

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First Ballot, February 1, 1986

Second Ballot, March 1, 1986

State Senator, 1987

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First Ballot, October 24, 1987

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 1990

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First Ballot, October 6, 1990

Second Ballot, November 6, 1990

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 1992

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First Ballot, October 3, 1992

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 1994

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First Ballot, October 1, 1994

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 1996

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First Ballot, September 21, 1996

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 1998

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First Ballot, November 3, 1998

Governor of Louisiana, 1999

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First Ballot, October 23, 1999

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 2000

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First Ballot, November 7, 2000

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 2002

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First Ballot, November 5, 2002

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 2004

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First Ballot, November 2, 2004

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 2006

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First Ballot, November 7, 2006

Second Ballot, December 9, 2006

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 2008


William J. Jefferson Wikipedia