I had always believed that the government was going to have a difficult time proving its case about the $90,000 they found in William Jefferson’s freezer. Turns out, the jury agreed and found Representative Jefferson not guilty on that specific charge.
Unfortunately for the former Congressman, the jury found him guilty of 11 of the 16 counts, including violating federal RICO statutes, arguably the most damning charge leveled against him.
For a Harvard-educated lawyer who was elected the first African-American Congressman in Louisiana since Reconstruction, today’s verdict represented an almost Shakespearean demise– and in Shakespeare, as with William Jefferson, a character’s demise is typically self-inflicted, borne out of arrogance, ego, an unquenchable thirst for power, and a willingness to skirt morals and ethics for personal benefit, regardless of the collateral damage.
By pure chance, I briefly met William Jefferson about a year ago (at the DNC), and he seemed like a quiet, avuncular guy. Perhaps in the past, Jefferson carried the air of an important, distinguished Congressman, but when I met him, he seemed detached, slouched, and exhausted.
Louisiana Republicans may decide to pounce on this conviction in order to make blanket generalizations about all Louisiana Democrats. However disingenuous it is (considering their simultaneous defense of David Vitter, whose “serious sin” most likely also violated the law), I acknowledge it is now low-hanging fruit for Republicans.
Here is what they fail to understand: There is absolutely no doubt that the vast majority of informed Louisiana Democrats are also pleased by the verdict. They are equally offended by his abuse of power, his exploitation of his office, and the pay-to-play system he seemingly flagrantly embraced.
And though it may sound counter-intuitive: In the long-term, William Jefferson’s conviction can only help Louisiana Democrats, a party desperately in need of rebranding.
Their message should be simple and succinct: Send him to jail.