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When FBI officials enlisted one of their informants to slip Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) $100,000 in marked bills, they arranged for the transaction to take place in a hotel in Arlington, Va., rather than the Washington, D.C., hotel where the two usually met. Why? Jefferson’s lawyers say it was because the federal court in Northern Virginia would be more sympathetic to the prosecution. Last week, they asked Judge T. S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to dismiss 14 of the 16 criminal charges against Jefferson and move the other two to D.C. federal court. In 15 motions filed on Sept. 7, Jefferson’s defense team � Robert Trout, Amy Berman Jackson, and Gloria Solomon of Trout Cacheris � fault the Justice Department for everything from illegally searching Jefferson’s New Orleans home in August 2005 to cherry-picking a venue with fewer African-Americans “to exclude members of the defendant’s race from the jury.” Jefferson was indicted in June on charges of bribery, racketeering, obstruction of justice, and money laundering. The lawyers have requested that Ellis transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where they say they’ll be more likely to strike a racial balance on the jury. Many of the allegations � Jefferson is charged with using his political influence and connections in Africa to gain leverage for himself and his family � stem from actions centered in either the District or in New Orleans, his lawyers argue. “This �change of venue’ from D.C. to Virginia was apparently orchestrated by the FBI,” they write. In a statement, the Justice Department said the venue is appropriate and supported by allegations in the indictment. A motions hearing is scheduled for October 12th.
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected].

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