Judge Upholds FBI's Search of Jefferson's Office
- From: "California Poppy" <GoldenStatePoppy@xxxxxxx>
- Date: 10 Jul 2006 14:50:13 -0700
Judge upholds FBI's search of lawmaker's office
Investigators may now resume its review of seized materials
By Joel Seidman
Updated: 2:37 p.m. PT July 10, 2006
WASHINGTON - A federal judge has ruled that an FBI raid in May on
Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson's Capitol Hill offices was
legal and constitutional - "There was no impermissible intrusion on the
The search of Jefferson's office on the weekend of May 20th was the
first ever of a congressman's office in the history of Congress.
Today the Department of Justice was given the authority to control the
custody of the seized materials and to resume its review of those
President Bush had ordered the seized materials - which included
documents and several computer hard drives - sequestered by the U.S.
Solicitor General's office for 45 days. That period ended on Sunday.
Judge Thomas Hogan ruled that there is "No support for the proposition
that a Member of Congress must be given advance notice of a search."
Judge Hogan, in a 28-page opinion writes, "No one argues that the
warrant executed upon Congressman Jefferson's office was not properly
administered. Therefore, there was no impermissible intrusion on the
No separation of power breach
He writes that the search which lasted some 18-hours on that weekend in
May did not violate the separation of powers, between the Legislative
and the Executive branches of government, "If there is any threat to
the separation of powers here, it is not from the execution of a search
warrant by one co-equal branch of government upon another, after the
independent approval of the third separate, and co-equal branch."
Hogan is the judge who authorized the FBI raid by signing the search
Even though the fact that some privileged material was incidentally
captured by the search, the Judge observes, "does not constitute an
No speech and debate violation
Also at issue, a provision in the U.S. Constitution - known as the
Speech and Debate Clause - which protects Members of Congress from
being questioned by the president, a prosecutor or a plaintiff in a
lawsuit concerning their legislative work.
In his ruling, Judge Hogan says, "Congressman Jefferson has not been
made to answer, either in terms of questions or in terms of defending
himself from prosecution, for speech or activities done in furtherance
of the legislative process. Therefore, the search did not violate the
Speech or Debate Clause."
"Speech or Debate Clause does not shield Members of Congress from the
execution of valid search warrants. Congressman Jefferson's
interpretation of the Speech or Debate privilege would have the effect
of converting every congressional office into a taxpayer-subsidized
sanctuary for crime." Hogan writes.
The Department of Justice had argued in a hearing that they had
exhausted all reasonable and timely alternative means of obtaining
evidence they sought from Jefferson.
The Judge agreed in part with Jefferson's lawyers that the Capitol Hill
search "entailed an invasion somewhat greater than usual" but he
writes, "the Government has demonstrated a compelling need to conduct
the search in relation to a criminal investigation involving very
serious crimes, and has been unable to obtain the evidence sought
through any other reasonable means."
Robert Trout, Jefferson's attorney has told NBC that he will likely
appeal the judge's ruling. Trout says his goal is to have the seized
materials returned to Jefferson.
Attorneys for the Justice Department and House are trying to reach an
agreement on procedures to be followed if DOJ decides to raid another
Jefferson, according to court documents, is being investigated
concerning allegations that he solicited and accepted bribes to help
promote a cable television and Internet business in West Africa.
The congressman has not been charged and has insisted he has an
explanation for all the allegations. Jefferson has repeatedly
predicted he will eventually be cleared of all wrongdoing.
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