By Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 27, 2006
A federal judge sentenced Brett Pfeffer, a former aide to Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), to eight years in prison and a $24,000 fine yesterday for bribing the lawmaker, saying, "It would be difficult to overstate the seriousness of this offense."
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria told Pfeffer that his cooperation with authorities in the investigation could result in a significant reduction in his sentence. Supporters in the courtroom included Pfeffer's father and Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell.
Pfeffer, 38, of Herndon, was a legislative aide to Jefferson from 1995 to 1998. He pleaded guilty Jan. 11 to conspiracy to commit bribery of a public official and aiding and abetting the bribery of a public official in 2004 and 2005. It involved bribing Jefferson to promote high-tech business ventures in Africa.
Jefferson, 59, the subject of a 14-month federal bribery investigation, has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing. But court documents allege he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using his congressional influence to promote high-tech business ventures in Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon.
In 2004, Pfeffer asked Jefferson to suggest investments for his boss, Lori Mody. Jefferson introduced Pfeffer to an official of iGate Inc., a Louisville-based company that planned to market technology for cable television and the Internet in Africa.
Mody agreed to invest $3.5 million. Jefferson, in exchange for using his congressional influence to promote the venture, demanded a 5 to 7 percent stake, Pfeffer told the judge in January. He said Jefferson also demanded that relatives be put on the payroll.
In March 2005, Mody became suspicious and agreed to cooperate with the FBI and wear a recording device.
In addition to Pfeffer, iGate owner Vernon L. Jackson, 53, has pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson. He has not been sentenced.
Yesterday, Pfeffer told Ellis that he has wondered endlessly why he did not have the sense to look Jefferson "in the eye and say 'no' " and "why I allowed myself to take his demands to my boss."