Betrayed by his ‘Boca-Burgers’

Who would have ever thought that an African American public official from Cajun Country, Louisiana–where the food is so good, your tongue chases your palate clean out of your mouth–who would have ever pegged a Laissez Bontemps Roulette kind-of prominent Black, Louisiana elected leader as being a vegan, a vegetarian?

It’s funny what a warrant in the hands of a Pit-bull-type federal prosecutor can come up with. Just ask Marion Barry.

Well, it turns out that maybe it’s true. Maybe, just maybe former Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) member William Jefferson (D-La.) is a vegan, a vegetarian. It seems that when federal agents raided his home here in Washington, they famously discovered $90,000 in marked bills he was paid by a government informant in his freezer.

The “Cheese” (pun intended) was found when The Federales raided his home and his office, prompting a Supreme Court Constitutional challenge to the raid of his office, because of separation of powers issues concerning executive vs. legislative authority over the U.S. Capitol Grounds. The raid at his home is where they found The Cheese in his freezer, hidden in fake Boca-Burger boxes, which led to his conviction Aug. 5, on 11 of 16 corruption charges.

Boca-Burgers. That’s fresh. No meat. Certainly no forbidden swine. But of course William Jefferson is a Harvard Man and why wouldn’t he have refined taste for all of the nicer things like Boca-Burgers and even Grey Poupon.

Jurors found that Mr. Jefferson used his congressional office as a criminal enterprise to enrich himself, soliciting and taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to support his business ventures in Africa. He was convicted of 11 counts that included solicitation of bribery, racketeering and money laundering.

The conviction means that the former co-chairman of congressional caucuses on Nigeria and African trade, who in 1990 became the first Black Congressman elected in Louisiana since Reconstruction, now faces up to 150 years in prison when he is sentenced in late October.

So, I wondered: ‘Does this conviction represent just another corrupt Louisiana politician getting caught by the long arm of the law, or is there a more profound message about race going on here.

“There are certain kind of scenarios,” Dr. David Bositis, a Senior Research Fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies told me. “Do you remember Mel Reynolds?

“Everybody in Chicago–The Establishment, including the Daleys–were perfectly happy with Mel Reynolds. They didn’t have any issues with him, and the prosecutors weren’t looking to go after him. But when an underage girl calls and says she’s been having an affair with him, they can’t ignore it.

“Obviously, finding a stack of $100 bills, or whatever they were in his freezer, that’s one of those things where you can’t ignore it,” said Dr. Bositis. The Boca-Burgers set him up!

Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana, Cajun, Creole Country was betrayed by his own Boca-Burgers. The prosecutors felt vindicated. Mr. Jefferson violated “his compact with the people of Louisiana. . . . He used his influence and his power to enrich himself and his family. This case shows that no person, not even a congressman, is above the law,” U.S. Attorney Dana Boente told reporters shortly after the conviction.

Prosecutors played videotapes showing Mr. Jefferson meeting with a business associate-turned-FBI informant (you just can’t trust anybody these days), who gave him $100,000 in marked bills to bribe a Nigerian official. The money was never delivered to Nigeria, prosecutors said, because the FBI found the cash first. Darn. And what happened to the other $10,000? Somebody ought to owe some taxes on that.

During the trial, defense attorneys conceded that Mr. Jefferson had been “stupid” and shown “awful judgment” in agreeing to make the payoff to the Nigerian official but that he had not committed a crime. The defense only presented two witnesses, arguing that Mr. Jefferson’s business dealings might have been unethical but were not criminal because they were not part of his official congressional duties. They said the government had tried to stretch what amounted to congressional ethics violations into criminal acts.

It was not a slam-dunk however. The jury deliberated five days before voting to convict him.

But he does have good taste. Boca-Burgers. Vegan, vegetarian, no meat.

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