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In re Jefferson

Supreme Court of Louisiana

May 1, 2015

IN RE: WILLIAM J. JEFFERSON

IN RE: Disciplinary Counsel; - Other; Applying For findings and Recommendations (Formal Charges) Office of Disciplinary Board, No. 11-DB-116;

Permanent disbarment imposed.

John L. Weimer, Bernette J. Johnson, Jeannette Theriot Knoll, Greg G. Guidry, Marcus R. Clark, Jefferson D. Hughes, III , Scott J. Crichton.

OPINION

Page 906

[2015-0508 La. 1] ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

PER CURIAM

This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (" ODC" ) against respondent, William J. Jefferson, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana but currently on interim suspension based upon his conviction of a serious crime. In re Jefferson, 09-2070 (La. 10/14/09), 19 So.3d 455.

UNDERLYING FACTS

Respondent is a former member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the 2nd Congressional District in the State of Louisiana. In June 2007, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia handed up a sixteen-count indictment that charged respondent with using his position as a member of Congress to solicit bribes in exchange for promoting various business deals throughout Africa. Following a jury trial, respondent was convicted in August 2009 of eleven offenses -- including conspiracy, wire fraud, bribery, money laundering, and racketeering -- arising from his involvement in the schemes. In a decision rendered in March 2012, the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed respondent's conviction, except as to one count of wire fraud, and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. United States v. Jefferson, 674 F.3d 332 (4th Cir. 2012). In April 2012, respondent was [2015-0508 La. 2] sentenced to serve 156 months in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons, followed by three years of supervised release. In November 2012, the United States Supreme Court denied respondent's petition for a writ of certiorari. Jefferson v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 648, 184 L.Ed.2d 482 (2012).

DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

In December 2011, the ODC filed one count of formal charges against respondent, alleging that his conduct as set forth above violated Rules 8.4(a) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct), 8.4(b) (commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer), 8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), and 8.4(d) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In May 2012, respondent was served with the formal charges, but he failed to file an answer. Accordingly, in April 2013, the factual allegations contained therein were deemed admitted and proven by clear and convincing evidence.

In April 2014, attorney Marcus Green enrolled as counsel of record on respondent's behalf. He also requested two extensions of time to file an answer to the formal charges, which the hearing committee

Page 907

chair granted; however, Mr. Green did not formally request that the deemed admitted order be recalled. In August 2014, Mr. Green filed on respondent's behalf a " Memorandum in Support of Mitigation of the Sanctions to be Imposed Against Respondent." In this pleading, respondent admitted his criminal conviction but argued that permanent disbarment is an unduly harsh sanction. Rather, he suggested that in light of the numerous mitigating factors present, " a long-term suspension, covering the term of the sentence of ...


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