WASHINGTON – Lawyers for Rep. William Jeffersonsaid Wednesday they will try anew to block FBI agents from examining documents seized at the congressman's Capitol Hill office in a bribery probe.
On Wednesday, Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan denied a request to delay the investigation while the Louisiana Democrat appeals the judge's earlier ruling that the office search was legal.
Granting the delay "would harm the public's interest in a prompt and final outcome of the government's investigation of serious crimes involving a sitting United States congressman running for re-election in November," Hogan wrote.
As a result of Hogan's ruling, Jefferson's lawyers say they will file an emergency motion with the judge to bar a "filter team" of FBI agents from reviewing the seized documents, pending an appeal to the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia.
The filter team is unconnected to the prosecution team looking into the bribery allegations.
The filter team would review records to determine if they were responsive to the items listed in a court warrant authorizing the search. The team also will give Jefferson an opportunity to examine the seized materials and seek a court ruling on any claims of confidentiality by the congressman or the House regarding particular documents.
Jefferson has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has directed that any review of documents by the filter team not begin until July 27 to give judges time to consider Jefferson's call for a delay.
The appeal of the decision that the search was legal could take several months, the Justice Department has said in arguing against the delay.
Last week, Hogan rejected arguments by Jefferson and House leaders in both parties that the May 20-21 search of Jefferson's congressional office violated the Constitution's protections against intimidation of elected officials.
For 16 months, investigators have been looking into whether the congressman promoted the sale of telecommunications equipment and services in exchange for stock and cash.