By Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 9, 2006
Louisville businessman Vernon L. Jackson was sentenced yesterday to seven years and three months in federal prison for bribing Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) with more than $400,000 and company stock to promote his Kentucky firm's high-tech business ventures.
During sentencing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria told Jackson, 54, owner of iGate Inc., that he made a "very bad decision" that corrupted the political process.
Jackson said nothing during the proceeding. His attorney, Michael S. Nachmanoff, said he was pleased the judge gave a sentence that was at the low end of the federal guideline.
Jackson is the second person to be sentenced in the 18-month public corruption probe that has targeted Jefferson and cast a dark cloud over the eight-term congressman's political future. Jefferson, 59, has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing, but sources have said an indictment appears assured.
Jackson pleaded guilty in May to bribing Jefferson to promote iGate's broadband technology for Internet and cable television in Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon. In January, Brett M. Pfeffer, a former Jefferson aide, pleaded guilty to bribing the congressman and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Both men, under their plea agreements, could get their sentences reduced for their cooperation with the FBI.
Jefferson attorney Robert Trout, who attended yesterday's sentencing, issued a statement afterward saying: "Congressman Jefferson knows well the pressure that the Department of Justice can apply once it targets someone for criminal prosecution. As Jackson's plea bargain makes clear, the government has offered powerful inducements to cause Jackson to plead guilty."
Jefferson, the statement added, has repeatedly said he never took payment in any form to perform "any act or duty."
Jefferson is running for reelection in his Hurricane Katrina-damaged district against 12 opponents.
The corruption probe has been slowed by the political uproar and legal battle over the FBI's raid in May on Jefferson's Capitol Hill office. Jefferson has argued that the raid violated the Constitution, and investigators have been prevented from looking at the seized materials while the matter works its way through court.