By Allan Lengel and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 21, 2006
More than a dozen FBI agents raided the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) last night, searching for documents possibly related to an ongoing public corruption investigation, a government official said.
As many as 15 agents wearing business suits began searching the office in the Rayburn House Office Building about 7:15 p.m. and were expected to continue through early this morning, the official said.
Debbie Weierman, an FBI spokeswoman, said that "the search was conducted this evening in conjunction with an ongoing FBI public corruption investigation."
She declined to elaborate. She said portions of the search warrant will be unsealed later today.
Robert Trout, Jefferson's attorney, complained that FBI agents refused to allow him or the general counsel of the House to witness the search.
"The government's actions in obtaining a search warrant to search the offices of a United States Congressman were outrageous," Trout said in a statement, the Associated Press reported. "There were no exigent circumstances necessitating this action. The government knew that the documents were being appropriately preserved while proper procedures were being followed. We are dismayed by this action. The documents weren't going anywhere and the prosecutors knew it."
Jefferson said last week that he will not resign his seat in the face of a federal investigation that has resulted in guilty pleas from two people who implicated him in a bribery scheme.
"I would take full responsibility for any crime that I committed, if that were the case," he said. "But I will not plead guilty to something I did not do, no matter how things are made to look and no matter the risk," said Jefferson, who is in his eighth term in the House.
He said the guilty pleas, made in federal court in Virginia, came from friends who succumbed to government pressure.
Brett Pfeffer, a former Jefferson aide, pleaded guilty in January to bribery-related charges. Vernon L. Jackson, chief executive of iGate Inc., a Louisville telecommunications firm, pleaded guilty May 3 to bribery.
Jackson said he had paid more than $400,000 to Jefferson and his relatives in exchange for the congressman's help in obtaining business deals in Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon.
The investigation became public on Aug. 3 when FBI agents raided Jefferson's homes in New Orleans and Northeast Washington, where they found about $90,000 in cash in his freezer, law enforcement sources have said.
They also raided five other locations, including the Kentucky and New Jersey offices of iGate Inc., which has become central to the investigation.