Rep. Jefferson Loses Round In Court

Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., makes a statement upon his arrival at Washington's National Airport, Monday, May 22, 2006.
AP
A federal judge said Wednesday that investigators could examine documents seized in a search of Rep. William Jefferson's office, denying a request to delay the bribery probe while the Louisiana Democrat appeals the judge's earlier ruling that the search was legal.

Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan said 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."

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.

At issue is whether a review of the seized documents can begin by an FBI "filter team" unconnected to the prosecution team looking into bribery allegations. Jefferson contends no one in the executive branch of government should examine the documents until the question of returning the material to Jefferson is resolved on appeal.

Jefferson's defense team said in a statement that it will immediately file an emergency motion for a stay pending an appeal of Hogan's latest ruling.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has directed that any review of documents by the filter team not begin until Aug. 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.