Supreme Court ruling in McDonnell case sets Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson free

Former Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana was set free Friday, five years into his 13-year prison sentence, when the judge who sentenced him vacated the majority of convictions against him for his involvement in political corruption in the early 2000s.

“I’m just grateful,” Jefferson said outside a federal courtroom in Alexandria on Friday morning.

Jefferson grabbed the nation's attention in 2005 when an FBI sting revealed that he was holding $90,000 in cash in his freezer for the president of Nigeria. The disgraced U.S. representative, who served the Bayou State on Capitol Hill for 18 years, was found guilty in 2009 of 11 counts of bribery and business dealings with multiple African governments.

While one charge was dropped not long after, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis sentenced Jefferson to 13 years, followed by three years of probation, and he began serving his prison sentence in November 2012.

Not long after Jefferson was put behind bars, another political corruption case blossomed, this time around Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. The McDonnells reportedly accepted more than $175,000 in loans and gifts from a local businessman in return for his exposure to state officials and industry leaders. McDonnell and his wife were indicted and convicted after the governor left office in January 2014.

But in June 2016, the Supreme Court vacated all charges against McDonnell and his wife under the premise that the definition of "official act" within the political corruption charges against them was too broad, making any public official guilty.

More on the McDonnell case

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RICHMOND, VA - JANUARY 24: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (2ndR) and his wife, Maureen (2nd-L) leave the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, on January 24, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen pleaded not guilty to a 14 count criminal indictment from federal grand jury charging that the couple violated federal corruption laws by using their positions to benefit a wealthy businessman who gave them gifts and loans. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 18: Maureen McDonnell walks to her corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, August 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and her husband Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - JANUARY 24: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen leave the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, on January 24, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen pleaded not guilty to a 14 count criminal indictment from federal grand jury charging that the couple violated federal corruption laws by using their positions to benefit a wealthy businessman who gave them gifts and loans. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 29: Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell (C) leaves her trial at U.S. District Court house August 29, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and her husband, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company, Star Scientific (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 3: Maureen McDonell arrives separately from her husband as jury deliberations in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, on September, 03, 2014 in Richmond, VA. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 29: Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell leaves his trial at U.S. District Court, August 29, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company, Star Scientific. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA JULY 31: Witness Jonnie R. Williams Sr. departs the Spottswood W. Robinson III and Robert R. Merhige, Jr., Federal Courthouse following a day of testimony in a federal corruption charge against former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 3: Former Governor Bob McDonnell departs the courthouse after a second day of jury deliberations in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, on September, 03, 2014 in Richmond, VA. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 09: U.S. Army Sgt. Wesley Watkins of Union Bridge, Maryland, reads from Jill Biden's 'Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops' as Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (C) and his wife Maureen McDonnell visit the KinderCare Learning Center August 9, 2012 in Alexandria, Virginia. A 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Gov. McDonnell's visit to the center is part of KinderCare's Honoring the Troops program taking place at the end of August in Virginia and Maryland. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 09: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (C) and his wife Maureen McDonnell (3rd R) say hello to a young student while visiting the KinderCare Learning Center August 9, 2012 in Alexandria, Virginia. A 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Gov. McDonnell's visit to the center is part of KinderCare's Honoring the Troops program taking place at the end of August in Virginia and Maryland. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 28: Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (C) leaves his trial at U.S. District Court with his son Bobby (R) August 28, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company, Star Scientific. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 18: Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell walks to his corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, August 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 18: Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell walks to his corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, August 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 18: Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell walks to his corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, August 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a Virginia businessman in exchange for helping his company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Because of the Supreme Court's more limited definition of political corruption, Ellis dropped seven of the remaining 10 charges against Jefferson in October this year and vacated another count of racketeering Friday. The two final conviction charges against Jefferson – bribery of international leaders – had in combination a statutory maximum sentence of five years.

Jefferson was released from prison in October after Ellis initially dropped charges, but he was released from court monitoring Friday.

"I’m going to go back home and have a Christmas dinner with my family,” Jefferson said outside the courthouse. “Whatever they want me to cook.”

When asked whether he felt he did anything wrong, given his two remaining corruption charges, The Washington Post reports that Jefferson said there’s “no point in talking about that now.”

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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