Appeals court upholds Jefferson charges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court upheld corruption charges Wednesday against Rep. William Jefferson, clearing the way for the Louisiana Democrat to stand trial on bribery charges involving $90,000 found in his freezer.

The ruling by a panel of the U.S. appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, rejected the Louisiana Democrat’s arguments the indictment must be dismissed because the grand jury improperly considered his legislative actions as evidence.

He was accused last year of soliciting millions of dollars in bribes from a dozen companies while using his office to broker business deals in Africa. In a search of his home, FBI agents said they found $90,000 in bribe money in a freezer.

Jefferson, a member of Congress since 1991 whose district includes New Orleans, has pleaded not guilty. Hurricane Gustav delayed the Democratic primary until November 4 and Jefferson won. He is favored to win the general election on December 6.

His lawyers argued the indictment unconstitutionally infringed on his privileges as a lawmaker, but the appeals court upheld a federal judge’s decision that the grand jury did not improperly consider any legislative material.

Reporting by Jim Vicini; Editing by Doina Chiacu