The former Louisiana congressman who famously hid $90,000 cash in his freezer following an FBI bribery sting was sentenced to 13 years in prison Friday, the longest term ever imposed on a congressman convicted of bribery.
Prosecutors wanted the 62-year-old William Jefferson, a Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans, to serve at least 27 years in prison. The defense wanted less than 10 years and hoped Jefferson could remain free on bond while he appeals his conviction.
Jefferson said nothing in court after he was sentenced. He was convicted in August of 11 counts, including bribery and racketeering. Prosecutors at his two-month trial said he took roughly $500,000 in bribes and sought millions more. He was acquitted of five other charges, including the one most closely associated with the money in his freezer.
The investigation started in March 2005. In August of that year, FBI agents searched Jefferson's Washington home and found the cash. Prosecutors said he had planned to use the money to pay a bribe to the then-vice president of Nigeria to secure a multimillion-dollar telecommunications deal there, an accusation Jefferson denied.
The money ended up in the freezer after a disgruntled businesswoman, Lori Mody, agreed to wear a wire after telling the FBI she had been cheated out of $3.5 million in deals brokered by Jefferson. The jury saw videotape of Mody handing over a suitcase filled with $100,000 cash outside an Arlington hotel. Most of that money was recovered from the freezer.
The defense argued that Jefferson was acting as a private business consultant in brokering the deals and his actions did not constitute bribery.
New Orleans voters had long been loyal to Jefferson, who in 1991 became Louisiana's first African-American congressman since Reconstruction. He rose from the poverty of the Louisiana Delta parishes to prominence as a street-savvy political tactician.
He was re-elected in 2006 even after news of the bribery scandal broke but was indicted and then lost to Republican attorney Anh "Joseph" Cao this past December.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.