Richard Craig Smith, John E. Kelly and Kimberly Sullivan Walker
November 16, 2009
On November 13, 2009, former U.S. Representative William J. Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years in prison for bribery and other related corruption charges, including conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). Representative Jefferson had been convicted by a jury on August 5, 2009, and was facing a maximum sentence of 150 years. The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) had sought a sentence within the Sentencing Guidelines range of 27 to 33 years, and Representative Jefferson argued for a term of less than 10 years.
Representative Jefferson’s conviction and sentence are notable for two reasons. First, he is the only U.S. elected official to be charged and convicted on charges related to the FCPA. Although Representative Jefferson was acquitted on a substantive FCPA charge based on allegations of an illicit payment to the then-sitting Vice President of Nigeria, he was convicted on Count One of the Indictment, which included allegations regarding a conspiracy to violate the FCPA. These allegations focused on an agreement between Representative Jefferson and his co-conspirators to make illicit payments to Nigerian officials to ensure the success of a joint venture that the Representative’s co-conspirators had established within that country.
The second notable aspect of Representative Jefferson’s case is the 13 year prison sentence imposed by United States District Court Judge T.S. Ellis. This sentence is the harshest sentence to be imposed upon a U.S. Congressman for corruption-related charges. Previously, the longest such sentence was the eight year, four month sentence imposed on Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham following his guilty plea in 2005. In addition, Representative Jefferson’s co-defendants, Vernon L. Jackson and Brett M. Pfeffer, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to seven years, three months and eight years, respectively.
Although the FCPA aspect of Representative Jefferson’s conviction is somewhat unclear, this case is another indication that the DOJ is increasing FCPA enforcement against individuals and seeking harsher sentences. In 2009, the longest sentence imposed in a case involving FCPA allegations was the four year, three month sentence imposed upon Shu Quan-Sheng. However, fourteen individuals continue to await sentencing, and some are facing substantial prison terms. Moreover, a number of individuals are currently under indictment for FCPA violations, including six former executives of Control Components, Inc., one of whom was Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Carson.
This article was prepared by Richard C. Smith (email@example.com or 202 662 4795) and John E. Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org or 202 662 0256) and Kimberley S. Walker from Fulbright’s White Collar Crime Practice Group and Government Investigations and Enforcement Practice Group.
Fulbright’s White Collar Crime Practice Group
Richard Craig Smith
John E. Kelly
Kimberly Sullivan Walker