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Justice Dept. Warns Others May Be Charged In Jefferson Case

A federal prosecutor warned today that more indictments could be handed out in the probe of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.).

Mark Lytle, a federal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of Virginia, made the comment during a hearing before District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, Va. The Justice Department and Jefferson's attorneys were squaring off over a number of motions filed in the 16-count corruption indictment of Jefferson, including several filings seeking to dismiss all or some of the charges against the veteran lawmaker.

Jefferson attended the session but did not speak, and he declined to say anything substantive to reporters following the two-hour-plus hearing.

Lytle was responding to a defense motion on documents and materials seized in an 2006 FBI raid on Jefferson's office in the Rayburn House Office Building. The Justice Dept. and Jefferson are locked in a separate legal struggle over the constitutionality of the raid, and Jefferson won the last round in the battle, with a federal appeals court ruling that the raid was improper and allowed Jefferson to file motions claiming the materials were privileged under the Speech or Debate Clause.

Lytle told Ellis on Friday that prosectutors still "plan to use some of those documents" in an ongoing criminal investigation of the case, and there could "be new possible charges and new possible defendants."

Following this exchange, Ellis asked the DOJ attorneys and Jefferson's defense team to argue the merits of two motions filed on behalf of the Louisiana Democrat - a motion to dismiss conspiracy charges against him, and another to dismiss bribery charges. Jefferson's attorneys have sought dismissal of all or part of case on several different angles, and barring that, have requested that Ellis exclude some evidence from the upcoming trial, which is scheduled to begin in January. Ellis actually joked at one point that both sides had filed so many motions and counter-motions that "a small forest has been sacrificed to that end."

Amy Jackson, one of Jefferson's attorneys, argued that there was no conspiracy in this case because neither Jefferson nor his family members, several of whom are mentioned as anonymous, unindicted co-conspirators in the congressman's sixteen-count indictment, were not part of any organized, deliberate effort to solicit bribes or engage in illegal activity.

Jackson instead suggested that Justice brought conspiracy charges against Jefferson in order to bring into the case allegations that Jefferson had not been formally charged with, such as his involvement with a planned sugar factory in Nigeria.

Jackson called the conspiracy charges a "classic rimless wheel," meaning there "is nothing that unifies" the different allegations under that count.