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Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson faces several obstacles to being acquitted of bribery, racketeering and other federal charges — and topping the list is explaining the $90,000 cash stashed in his freezer.


Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans until losing his bid for re-election last year, goes on trial Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on allegations that he received more than $400,000 in bribes in return for using his influence to broker business deals in Africa.

Defense attorneys are expected to attack the credibility of a witness who frequently wore a wire for the government. They have to hope a jury will accept a fairly legalistic distinction that Jefferson's conduct wasn't bribery, but was more technically akin to influence peddling. And there's the money in the freezer — $90,000 wrapped in aluminum foil, found by federal agents in August 2005 in Jefferson's Washington home.

Just days earlier, agents videotaped him at a northern Virginia hotel accepting a suitcase stuffed with $100,000 cash from a cooperating witness.

The freezer funds became such a headline that Robert Trout, Jefferson's lawyer, suggested at a recent hearing that potential jurors need to be reminded during the jury selection phase of the trial that the Jefferson case is the one about "the money in the freezer" to try to weed out jurors exposed to pretrial publicity.


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