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New details in bribe case

Compiled from Times wires
Published May 22, 2006

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A congressman under investigation for bribery was caught on videotape accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded, according to a court document released Sunday. Agents later found the cash hidden in his freezer.

At one audiotaped meeting, Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., chuckles about writing in code to keep secret what the government contends was his corrupt role in getting his children a cut of a communications company's deal for work in Africa.

As Jefferson and the informant passed notes about what percentage the lawmaker's family might receive, the congressman "began laughing and said, 'All these d--- notes we're writing to each other as if we're talking, as if the FBI is watching,'" the affidavit said.

Jefferson, who represents New Orleans, has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.

The new details about the case emerged after federal agents searched Jefferson's congressional office on Capitol Hill on Saturday night and Sunday.

Jefferson's lawyer, Robert Trout, said that the prosecutors' disclosure was "part of a public relations agenda and an attempt to embarrass Congressman Jefferson. The affidavit itself is just one side of the story which has not been tested in court," Trout said.

At an impassioned news conference last week in New Orleans, Jefferson said that he was innocent of wrongdoing and would not resign from the House, even if indicted.

The name of the intended recipient of the $100,000 is blacked out, but other details in the affidavit indicate he is Abubakar Atiku, Nigeria's vice president.

Gonzales eyes prosecuting journalists

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information, citing an obligation to national security.

The nation's top law enforcer also said the government will not hesitate to track telephone calls made by reporters as part of a criminal leak investigation, but officials would not do so routinely and randomly.

Asked if journalists could be prosecuted for publishing classified information, Gonzales responded, "There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility."

He referred to the 1917 Espionage Act, which made it a crime for an unauthorized person to receive national defense information and to transmit it to others. "We have an obligation to enforce the law and to prosecute those who engage in criminal activity," he said.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the Espionage Act has never been interpreted to prosecute journalists who were providing information to the public.

United Way CFO quits, citing problems

WASHINGTON - The chief financial officer brought in to help clean up the scandal-rocked local United Way has resigned in frustration, saying the organization is exaggerating how much money it is raising and the bad habits she tried to fix persist.

Former CFO Kim Tran said she left in part because of the problems. The charity's marketing manager, who confirmed her allegations, also has left, and auditors have pointed to significant problems in how the organization keeps its books. Final figures show that, despite its cheery public announcements, the charity has failed to pull itself out of the fundraising nosedive that started three years ago after a spending scandal.

The charity's leaders deny that fundraising totals have been inflated. United Way officials say they have rectified most of their auditors' concerns and the organization is recovering in spite of past troubles.

Gas prices drop slightly over two weeks

CAMARILLO, Calif. - The average retail price of a gallon of gas fell about 1.45 cents across the nation during the past two weeks, the first drop since prices began a steady climb in late February, according to a survey released Sunday.

Self-serve regular averaged about $2.93 a gallon, down from about $2.95 two weeks ago, said Trilby Lundberg, who publishes the nationwide Lundberg Survey of roughly 7,000 gas stations.

The average price of mid grade was $3.03 a gallon, down from $3.04. Premium hit $3.13 a gallon, compared with $3.14 two weeks ago.

Soldier guilty of murdering wife

FORT LEWIS, Wash. - A soldier was convicted Saturday of murdering and mutilating his teenage wife, a Fort Lewis spokesman said.

An Army jury found Spc. Brandon Bare, 20, of Wilkesboro, N.C., guilty of premeditated murder and two counts of indecent acts for chopping Nabila Bare, 18, to death with a meat cleaver and desecrating her corpse.

His defense lawyer said he was an emotionally and physically damaged combat veteran, angry over his wife's infidelity and the pending breakup of their marriage, who killed in a moment of rage.

[Last modified May 22, 2006, 08:01:43]

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