Former Aide to Rep. Jefferson Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison

A former aide to Rep. William Jefferson was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison for his role in a bribery scandal involving the congressman.

Brett Pfeffer, 37, of Herndon, Va., pleaded guilty in January to two bribery-related charges: conspiracy to commit bribery and aiding and abetting bribery of a public official. Jefferson's name did not come up in the hearing in federal court, but other documents have made clear he is that public official.

Specifically, Pfeffer admitted to helping broker deals between Jefferson, D.-La., and a northern Virginia investment executive for whom Pfeffer worked. That executive, who has not been identified in court documents, agreed to pay bribes to Jefferson after Pfeffer said the congressman would require it.

"I've gone over in my head 10 million times why I didn't look him in the eye and say no ... why I allowed myself to take his demands to my boss," Pfeffer said during the sentencing.

The executive later became disenchanted with her business deals and approached the FBI. She agreed to wear a wire and recorded conversations with Jefferson in which he used coded conversations to discuss bribes, according to court documents.

Jefferson also was videotaped taking a briefcase with $100,000 in $100 bills from the executive's car. The money was found several days later in Jefferson's freezer.

Pfeffer worked for Jefferson in the mid-1990s and maintained a professional relationship with him. After introducing Jefferson to his boss, Pfeffer advised her that Jefferson would expect something in return for his assistance in brokering the deal.

Another Jefferson associate, a Louisville, Ky., telecommunications executive named Vernon Jackson, has pleaded guilty to paying more than $400,000 in bribes to Jefferson in exchange for his assistance securing business deals in Nigeria and other African nations.

Pfeffer's eight-year term was in the mid-range of the federal sentencing guidelines. Pfeffer has agreed to cooperate in the ongoing probe of Jefferson. A prosecutor said Pfeffer may be eligible for a reduction of his sentence once his cooperation is complete.

U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis III said a tough sentence was necessary to deter others from public corruption.

"Public corruption is an infection in the body politic that cannot be tolerated," Ellis said.