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Grand Jury Indicts Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson; President Bush Heads to G8 Summit; Justice Department Holds News Conference on Congressman Jefferson Indictment; Paris Hilton Begins Jail Sentence
Aired June 4, 2007 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: All right.
This is the video everybody is talking about, but you just need to watch it. No need to talk about this stuff. This was a Major League meltdown by a minor league manager. That's Phillip Wellman of the Mississippi Braves. Don't really know what set him off. It's just fun to watch, though. Check him out.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Standard operating procedure right here, though.
HOLMES: In the minor leagues, this is what happens?
PHILLIPS: Yes. You toss third base. Then, you go over and you toss second base.
Now, this is what I don't understand.
HOLMES: OK, this -- we're not clear on this.
PHILLIPS: Can you explain this to me?
HOLMES: We're not sure.
HOLMES: But you can kind of figure out kind of what he's doing in -- what, is he in the foxhole? He finds a grenade, and he just launches it over at the umpire, letting him know how -- what he thinks about him.
He says he's now received a lot of calls from former players now in the majors, including Brian McCann of the Atlanta Braves, saying it's the funniest thing he's ever seen. We will try to get more details and maybe get this guy on at some point.
But we won't have him on in the next hour of the NEWSROOM, which is starting right now.
PHILLIPS: Got it. Straight to the president of the United States, first lady by his side. They are arriving in Prague. As you know, he's getting ready to head to Germany for the G8 Summit. Already, it's been a bit of an unruly start, though. That's what is expected to be a pretty strong week of rallies against the three-day G8 Summit that will start in Germany -- the president now being greeted by Prague leaders.
The German chancellor will be hosting Britain, France, Japan, Italy, Russia, Canada, and the U.S. for discussions on global warming, aid to Africa, global economy. As you know, the G8 Summit attracts protesters every year, protesters that are opposed to the war in Iraq, globalization, also opposed to capitalism.
It got pretty rough in Germany, a couple hundred people arrested, in addition to protests already in Prague. There was even talk about when the president arrived in Germany that they would try and block the airport entrances. We will see what happens as he moves on to Germany.
But now he will be meeting here with the leaders of Prague, talking about economic issues, international relations, the president and the first lady, as he gets ready to head to Germany for the G8 Summit.
HOLMES: We do want to turn to our Betty Nguyen, who is in the newsroom following a developing story.
We are still talking about that plane out in California.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are. And we're showing you pictures of it, live pictures, in fact, out of Upland, California.
You have to see this, this plane, this Piper Seneca -- well, there it is -- landing on top of a garage there, again, in this residential neighborhood in Upland, California. It struck three homes before crashing there. And what we understand is that, while most of the plane is there on top of that garage, you can see a wing is on top of the roof of another home -- again, three homes struck in this crash.
We understand three people do have minor injuries. That's the good news, no deaths reported as of now.
But here's what we understand happened. This plane was on approach to the Cable Airport there in Upland, California, when it lost power. So, it didn't even get to the runway when it went down on top of the -- several homes, three of them, and landing on top of the garage that you see right there.
Don't exactly know if the three injuries are folks on that plane, on board that plane. It does seat six people. But, hopefully, folks inside the homes weren't there at the time, as this was in broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon, but this video coming to us from KABC in Upland, California, three injuries in a small plane crash there in a residential neighborhood, where that plane is on top of a roof at this hour -- T.J.
HOLMES: Scary sight, there. Betty, thank you so much for keeping an eye on it for us.
PHILLIPS: Well, you might remember the case of an FBI search of a congressman's office, $90,000 allegedly found in his freezer at his home.
Now a grand jury has indicted Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson on 16 counts, including racketeering, soliciting bribes, and money-laundering.
CNN's Andrea Koppel on the Hill with more on the fallout.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there.
Well, we're still waiting to see what the fallout will be, Kyra. But, as you said, the case has been going on for the last couple of years now,. And, finally, CNN has learned that the FBI, the Justice Department is going to hand down an almost 100-page indictment, 16 counts in all, including things like racketeering, solicitation of bribes, wire fraud, money-laundering, obstruction of justice, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and conspiracy.
We have as yet to hear back from Congressman Jefferson's office, either here in Washington or in Louisiana. He is a nine-term member of Congress from the 2nd District of Louisiana, which includes the New Orleans area. And he has, throughout this entire case, maintained his innocence. He has been accused, until now without any kind of indictments leveled against him, of having accepted hundreds of thousands, perhaps even $1 million, in bribes from close associates of his, a former aide of his, as well as a friend of his, for having them -- helping them do business in Africa, in particular in Nigeria, helping them with a tell communications deal.
Republicans have already jumped on this, even though we have as yet to hear from Democrats, sending out this e-mail saying, "The most ethical Congress in history?"
If you remember, just last year, in the 2006 elections, House Democrats in particular were running against what they claimed was a Republican culture of corruption. Now, with these indictments to be leveled against Congressman Jefferson, Democrats won't necessarily have such a clean record -- back to you.
PHILLIPS: All right, Andrea Koppel live from the Hill.
We will definitely wait for that Justice correspondent (sic) news conference, expected on Congressman William Jefferson, about 3:30 Eastern time, about 25 minutes away, possibly. We will take it live when it happens.
HOLMES: Test results may be confirming what Andrew Speaker has said all along: He's probably not a health risk, even though he's infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis.
The Georgia lawyer sparked international condemnation for traveling across the globe to get married. Today, though, his doctors say two of three sputum tests on Speaker are negative. They are waiting on results from a third test.
If that's negative as well, doctors say, Speaker is -- quote -- "relatively non-contagious."
Still, his doctor says Speaker should not have gotten on a plane. All the while, Speaker is defending his big, fat Greek wedding. His family says this photo is proof that the couple wed in Santorini, Greece. The town's mayor disagrees, however.
And Speaker's family and his in-laws went on national television to defend him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA")
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: So, let me ask, every single one of you approved of their decision to come home on a commercial plane?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely, 100 percent. Absolutely, 100 percent.
DR. ROBERT COOKSEY, FATHER-IN-LAW OF TUBERCULOSIS PATIENT: I can't answer that question, and -- because I wasn't in that situation. But I probably would have done the very same thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: The CDC is still contacting and testing passengers who shared flights with Speaker to make sure that they are not infected.
And, Wednesday night, Andrew Speaker, his wife, and family joining our "LARRY KING LIVE" -- that's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
PHILLIPS: Now, when you think terror hotbeds, Trinidad and Guyana don't come to mind right away. But, both of those countries figure into the alleged plot to blow up JFK Airport. And we're learning more all the time.
CNN's Jim Acosta has been keeping us updated each hour. He joins us live from New York.
What's the latest information, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, investigators say the lone U.S. citizen in this group, Russell Defreitas, traveled back and forth from New York to Guyana and Trinidad to plan this airport attack.
And, while authorities say this plot never got past -- past the planning stage, it did -- did highlight a little-known terrorist threat that may be lying in the Caribbean.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Suspects Abdul Kadir, Russell Defreitas, Kareem Ibrahim, and Abdel Nur are described by relatives and friends as not the types to execute a terrorist attack on New York's JFK Airport.
A friend of Defreitas says the man a law enforcement source accused of being the plot's ringleader just isn't smart enough.
TREVOR WATTS, FRIEND OF RUSSELL DEFREITAS: No, no, not the Russell I -- not the Russell I knew, you know? I know he -- talked all kind of harebrained, talk a lot of garbage, sometimes. But, no, he's not that type of person.
ACOSTA: The wife of suspect Abdul Kadir, a one-time politician in the Caribbean Nation of Guyana, says her husband is a devoted father and grandfather.
ISHA KADIR, WIFE OF ABDUL KADIR: No way at no time we were ever involved in anything of plots of bombing, or any plots with America, against America. We are not -- we are not a part of that. We have family, both of us, family in America.
ACOSTA: But what does impress authorities, they say, is the group's ability to formulate a plot that stretched from New York to the Caribbean to South America.
While Defreitas is a U.S. citizen, he's originally from the South American nation of Guyana, as is one of the other suspects. The other two hail from Trinidad, just off the South American coast.
According to investigators, the suspects met in Trinidad to discuss their plans with members of a radical Muslim group called the Jamaat al Muslimeen. Also known as JAM, the extremist organization launched an unsuccessful coup attempt in Trinidad in 1990, leaving 24 people dead.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says the JFK plot presents a new kind of threat, Caribbean-based terrorism.
RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: This particular plot is both similar and different to the ones that we have seen in the past. It is different in that it has ties to the Caribbean. And this is an area in which we have growing concern, and I think requires a -- a lot more focus.
ACOSTA: And that alleged ringleader, Russell Defreitas, is due back in court on Wednesday for a bail hearing.
Two other suspects in the case are being detained in Trinidad. And, according to the attorney for those two suspects, he is going to fight extradition to the United States on behalf of those two clients. So, we will have to wait and see if -- if those two individuals will face justice here in the U.S. -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Jim, what do your sources tell you? You hear all this information. You think of what could have happened. Do -- did these men really have the capability to basically turn JFK into a fireball?
ACOSTA: Well, you know, these plots -- and I have covered several of these plots that have unfolded over the last several years. And what the federal authorities say is that they like to intervene while they are still in the planning stage, while they are still in the talking stage.
And, so, you will hear a lot -- a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking about, well, that this was just a lot of talk. But, in actuality, when you look at the federal complaint that was filed over the weekend, I mean, the alleged ringleader, Russell Defreitas, did manage to get on an airplane and fly back and forth from New York to Guyana and Trinidad to meet with two individuals who are alleged to be a part of this group Jamaat al Muslimeen.
So, this was not just a bunch of guys sitting around a bar talking about blowing up JFK Airport. There was -- there were surveillance videos that were taken. And those videos were also flown to Guyana, allegedly, to be shown to the other co-conspirators, the alleged co-conspirators, in this case.
So, while they did not obtain any explosives -- and that has not been alleged in this case -- they did get pretty far in the operational phase, if you listen to what the federal authorities are saying.
PHILLIPS: Jim Acosta live from New York -- thanks, Jim.
HOLMES: Six countries in eight days, President Bush's busy itinerary this week in Europe -- and he has just landed in Prague, the first stop on his trip -- still ahead, the G8 Summit in Germany and what will likely be pretty tough talks with his Russian counterpart.
CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry, traveling with the president, joins me now live.
Hello to you, Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello there, T.J.
You're right. You can see, Air Force One just landed in the last half-hour here in Prague -- Mr. Bush beginning his European tour, amid these new threats today from the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, basically catching the Bush administration by surprise.
The national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said, aboard Air Force One, that this is an escalation of the rhetoric, and it's just not helpful.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HENRY (voice-over): Russian President Vladimir Putin is talking tough, warning he may aim nuclear weapons at targets in Europe unless the U.S. stops plans for a missile defense system in the region.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If this does not happen, then we will withdraw any responsibility for our retaliatory measures, because it wasn't us who initiated a new round of arms race development in Europe.
HENRY: That rhetorical blast came even before President Bush left the U.S. for the G8 Summit, with a stop first in the Czech Republic, where the White House wants to place a radar system for the missile shield.
The White House insists this will be no threat to Russia, and is merely designed to protect Europe from Iran and other rogue nations that may launch attacks from the Mideast.
STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: They should view missile defense as an element of long-term security for Russia, and that it is a very productive area for cooperation between the United States and Russia.
HENRY: Putin isn't buying it, expressing fear the defensive missiles could be used as offensive weapons against Russia.
PUTIN (through translator): We think that there is no reason for placing an anti-missile system in Europe. And our military experts believe that this system will cover the territory of the Russian Federation up to the Urals."
HENRY: Kremlin watchers say the White House appears to have misjudged the fury the missile defense system would spark.
PETER BAKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Really provoked a genuine and deep anger in Moscow, a sense that here was America coming up to its own backdoor in a very provocative way.
HENRY: Already, at least one anti-missile-defense demonstration here in Prague today. Mr. Bush is in the Czech Republic to try and sell a skeptical Czech public on the notion of basing the radar for this system here.
Later in the week, he's going to be heading to Poland, where he wants to base the interceptor missiles. Those are two stops that are only going to anger Mr. Putin more, which is why the Bush-Putin meeting later this week at the G8 Summit, a lot of people wondering whether that may overshadow the rest of the agenda -- T.J.
HOLMES: All right, Ed Henry for us today -- thank you so much, Ed.
PHILLIPS: Straight ahead: candidates in combat., the campaign battlefield all about the one in Iraq -- the Democrats' debate straight ahead from the CNN NEWSROOM.
HOLMES: Also, catching up after a coma. A (r)MD-BO¯Polish man tries to regain his bearings after 19 years out cold. His story is ahead in the NEWSROOM.
PHILLIPS: It's 1940 all over again. Paris surrenders, and the entire world takes note.
PHILLIPS: Details straight ahead from the CNN NEWSROOM.
HOLMES: The time is about 3:17 here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here are three stories we're working on.
They want to stay put. Two of the men accused of plotting to attack New York's JFK Airport plan to fight extradition to the U.S. They were taken into custody in Trinidad, where the search goes on for another suspect. A fourth man is in custody in the U.S.
A Georgia man infected with a dangerous form of tuberculosis might not be as contagious as first thought. Today, a Denver hospital says two tests on Andrew Speaker have come back negative. If a third result is the same, doctors say they would consider Speaker -- quote -- "relatively non-contagious."
Also today, a military judge drops charges against one of the youngest detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Omar Khadr was just 15 when he was captured in a 2002 Afghan firefight, in which he allegedly killed a U.S. soldier. The judge says he wasn't formally classified as an unlawful enemy combatant under new rules for trying Gitmo detainees.
PHILLIPS: They oppose the Iraq war, but do they oppose it strongly enough, loudly enough, or consistently enough? That was a big issue in last night's Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire sponsored by CNN.
John Edwards accused his rivals of not putting up much of a fight against the recent war funding bill. But his rivals reminded Edwards that he voted to authorize the war in 2002.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They went quietly to the floor of the Senate, cast the right vote. But there is a difference between leadership and legislating.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think, John, the fact is, is that I opposed this war from the start. So, you're about four-and-a-half years late on leadership on this issue. And, you know, I think it's important not to play politics on something that is as critical and as difficult as this.
(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIPS: Well, CNN's Mary Snow is part of the best political team on television. She's in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Iraq played a major role in the debate, Mary, but other topics had the candidates going at each other. Health care proved contentious, yes?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kyra, especially health care, not as contentious as the war. But, once again, we saw John Edwards challenging Senator Barack Obama on his health care plan.
Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: Senator Obama came out with a plan just a few days ago, which I don't believe is -- is completely universal, but he deserves to be credited, because he laid out what the cost is and how -- exactly how he was going to pay for it.
OBAMA: The main disagreement with John and I is John believes that we have to have mandatory insurance for everyone in order to have universal health care.
My belief is that most families want health care, but they can't afford it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: And, once again, we're seeing -- and we have been talking about this -- that John Edwards has been third in the polls, and really tried last night to distinguish himself from the Democratic front-runners, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama.
And, on that topic, Senator Hillary Clinton really tried to stay above the political fray, and say that differences with Democrats were minor. On health care, she reminded the crowd that she had tried to push forward universal health care as first lady, and said she was glad that other Democrats were now all putting out plans -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Mary Snow live from New Hampshire -- thanks, Mary.
And, again, CNN is your political headquarters -- live tonight, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama taking part in a faith and politics forum in Washington. That's at 7:00 Eastern, exclusively on CNN.
And, from New Hampshire, the Republican presidential contenders hold their debate. That's tomorrow night, 7:00 Eastern, on CNN, home of the best political team on television.
HOLMES: We want to turn now back to our Betty Nguyen in the newsroom with another developing story.
Some pretty interesting pictures, I understand you have...
NGUYEN: Yes, you really have to see this.
First, we show you a plane on top of a roof in California. Now we want to show you a semitruck that is detached from the cab. You see that right there? OK? So, you see the -- the rear end of the semitruck there on that embankment.
Well, look toward the top, behind the -- the wrecker there. You see that little red portion? That's the cab of this truck. Don't know what caused this accident, but it happened around 1:30 today. And this semitruck, near I-43, southbound, is where it is.
And what it's done is, really, messed up traffic in that area. Two of the three lanes on southbound I-43 are closed. It's a rollover. You see part of the truck there on the embankment -- no word on any injuries at this point or what even caused the accident. But what a mess that is.
The cab detached from the rest of the semitruck. Folks there are kind of looking at the situation, trying to figure out, how do you get it off of the embankment and how do you put this thing back together?
In the meantime, what a traffic nightmare this can be for the folks there traveling southbound on Interstate 43, as two of the three lanes are closed as of this hour.
Some interesting pictures for you, T.J., and that's what we have been bringing you all day long. My goodness, things are happening all over the place, and just the latest in a string of them.
HOLMES: Interesting pictures.
It's the afternoon show-and-tell with Betty Nguyen.
HOLMES: Betty, thank you so much for keeping an eye on this stuff for us.
PHILLIPS: Indicted, 16 counts, most of it around bribery. We're talking about Congressman William Jefferson -- a Justice Department presser straight ahead on CNN. It's to be -- start any minute now. We will take it live when it happens.
HOLMES: Also, catching up after a coma, 19 years of lost time -- one patient's story.
That is ahead in the NEWSROOM.
HOLMES: Well, the Iron Curtain came crashing down, and he slept through it. Wars were fought. Presidents came and went; 9/11 changed the world. And he slept through all that, too.
Now, after 19 years in a coma, a Polish railway worker is awake. He was hit by a train in 1988. He had cancer in his brain. Doctors had given up on him. But you know who didn't? His wife. She cared for him at home for almost two decades. Now he's catching up on what he's missed. And he has certainly missed a lot, taking -- presidents and those other things, four children's marriages, and the arrival of 11 grandkids.
So, he has got a lot of catching up to do.
PHILLIPS: Well, it's becoming increasingly gauche to ride coach. And, so, another carrier is updating its services for travelers hopping across the pond.
Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with the details on that.
But, Susan, just for a moment, the man coming out of the coma, I mean, I had no idea that he had conversations, met his grandkids. I mean, it's -- gave me a little lump in my throat.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that someone supported him all those years...
LISOVICZ: ... that is the power of one and the belief.
And, well, ultimately, she can have the ultimate...
PHILLIPS: That's true love, Sus.
LISOVICZ: ... "I told you so," right?
LISOVICZ: I told you so.
PHILLIPS: That's right.
I told you so, and true love.
LISOVICZ: Yes, exactly.
Well, in the meantime, if they want to come visit some family members here in the U.S., they can come in style, Kyra. Virgin Atlantic is planning to start a business-class only airline between Europe and the U.S.
According to reports, the high-end flights will go from New York to several major European cities, including London, Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, and Zurich.
The move puts Virgin up against several new carriers, including New York-based Eos Airlines, London's Silverjet, and L'Avion of Paris. Those carriers have launched similar business-only flights, where every seat has those luxuries we love, like laptop computer power, gourmet food served on real china, and deeply reclining seats, so you can really sleep.
British Airways plans to launch a similar service next summer. There's a lot of interest in these flights, because airlines can charge a lot more than for coach fares. They make a lot more -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, Avis is also offering an upgrade for business travelers, as well, right?
LISOVICZ: That's right. You can travel in style on the ground or in the air, Kyra, as you deserve to.
Avis is making it so customers can rent a car and a driver. The rent-a-car giant is teaming up with a company called WeDriveU to allow customers to book a chauffeur along with the rental. The service is available in 10 major cities, including New York, Boston, Miami, and L.A. Customers must give Avis 24-hour notice.
As for the price, well, the chauffeur service will set you back $30 an hour, with a three-hour minimum. That's on top of the regular rental charges. And you don't have to go to the Avis checkout desk. You can have the driver pick you up -- shares of Avis, ticker symbol CAR, about three-quarters-of-a-percent higher.
As for stocks overall, the major averages have just moved into the plus column. There's a little bit of caution, after the Chinese stock market plunged 8 percent, its second biggest loss after February's nearly 9 percent plunge -- checking the latest numbers, the Dow on the plus side, up 11 points. The Nasdaq is up 3.
But Krispy Kreme shares are down 6.5 percent. This was all the craze a few years ago. Well, it reported earnings that came in well below Wall Street's estimates, and it's getting punished.
We will find out if the Dow and S&P can close again at record highs when I return in about 30 minutes for the closing bell -- in the meantime, Kyra and T.J., back to you.
PHILLIPS: All right, Susan, see you then.
HOLMES: Want to show you this live picture of what we're keeping an eye on right now, expecting any minute a Justice Department news conference about Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana, who has now been indicted, a long-running bribery investigation against him.
You might remember this one detailed, $90,000 in cash found in his freezer -- expecting those details of the indictment coming up at any minute.
We will bring that to you live when it does happen.
PHILLIPS: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes, sitting in today for Don Lemon.
A freezer full of cash. The feds say that is exactly what they found in the home of one Louisiana congressman.
PHILLIPS: Now Democrat William Jefferson is in very hot water over those allegedly frozen assets.
We're awaiting more details on federal criminal charges. A news conference about to begin.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
About a minute away from this live news conference. We're going to take it as soon as we start hearing someone speak from the podium there at the Justice Department.
Federal prosecutors sought out their indictment today, and they got it. Sixteen counts against Representative William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana.
It's been a longstanding FBI corruption probe centering on allegations that he took bribes to promote a high-tech business venture in Africa. And you'll remember the hottest details of that, $90,000 in cash found in his freezer when the FBI raided his home.
Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena waiting for them to step up to the podium as well.
Finally, we've got -- this has been going on for a while. And there was a controversy over going into his office and did they have the legality to do it.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The worst-kept secret in Washington was that this man was under investigation. But hopefully today we'll hear from officials about why this took so long.
That was more than two years ago, Kyra, that that money was allegedly found in his freezer. The charges that he faces today include racketeering, money laundering, soliciting bribes. He's facing more than 200 years in prison. Federal prosecutors already got plea agreements from two of his associates who said that they would cooperate in testifying against him.
Well, it looks like it's starting now, Kyra. Let's hear what they have to say.
ALICE FISHER, ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good afternoon. I'm Alice Fisher, assistant attorney general of the criminal division.
I'm joined today by the U.S. attorney from the eastern district of Virginia, Chuck Rosenberg; Ken Kaiser, assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI; Joe Persachini (ph), assistant director of the FBI Washington field office; assistant U.S. attorneys Mike Lidel (ph) and Rebecca Bellows (ph); criminal chief Jack Hanley (ph) from the eastern district of Virginia; fraud section trial attorney Chuck DeRoss (ph); fraud section chief Steve Tyrell (ph); and deputy chief Mark Mendelssohn (ph); and FBI special agents Tim Tebow (ph), Dan Gallagher (ph), Ed Cooper and John Longmeier; and from (INAUDIBLE), Paul Herbert (ph).
Today, a federal grand jury in the eastern district of Virginia returned a 16-count indictment against Congressman William Jefferson with public corruption offenses. Chuck Rosenberg will discuss the facts of the indictment, but I want to take this opportunity to thank Chuck, thank Ken and Joe, and all the agents and the prosecutors that are up here with me today on this case and on their very, very hard work on this significant, serious public corruption case.
Today's charges demonstrate that the Department of Justice will continue to enforce the public corruption laws that are designed to ensure the integrity of our government. The department will continue to hold accountable those public officials who will use their office and commit illegal acts such as the bribery schemes outlined in today's indictment. The public deserves and is entitled to expect that government officials are free from corruption -- Chuck.?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, U.S. ATTORNEY, EASTERN DIVISION OF VIRGINIA: Thank you, Alice.
Good afternoon. My name is Chuck Rosenberg. I am the United States attorney for the eastern district of Virginia.
Today, a federal grand jury in Alexandria returned an indictment charging United States Representative William Jefferson with using his office to commit a broad range of serious crimes. The 16-count indictment -- and let me stop here and remind you of something that I think you know -- an indictment is not evidence, and Mr. Jefferson is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The 16-count indictment alleges a pervasive pattern of self-dealing, bribery and corruption by Mr. Jefferson, in violation of his oath of office, of his duty to the United States Congress, in which he served, and of his duty to the citizens of the United States.
The charges against Mr. Jefferson include: two counts of conspiracy to solicit bribes and to commit wire fraud, And in the first conspiracy; also to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; two counts of soliciting bribes as a member of Congress; six counts of wire fraud; one count of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; three counts of money laundering; one count of obstruction of justice; and one count of violating the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organization, or RICO Act, through a pattern of activity, including 11 different bribe schemes.
If convicted, we will also seek the forfeiture of hundreds of thousands of dollars that Mr. Jefferson obtained through fraud and by his corrupt acts. The charged counts relate to a series of schemes divised by Mr. Jefferson to solicit bribes, to bribe foreign government officials, and to use his office and position as a member of Congress to enrich himself and his family. According to the indictment in December of 2004, for instance, Mr. Jefferson solicited a bribe while in a congressional dining room in Washington, D.C. During that meeting, Mr. Jefferson asked a cooperating witness for a 5 to 7 percent share of the company that the cooperating witness controlled.
That share of that company was to go to a member of Mr. Jefferson's family. In return, Mr. Jefferson would perform official acts to further a joint business venture in Nigeria.
To promote that joint business venture, Mr. Jefferson met privately in July 2005 with a high-ranking executive -- executive branch official from Nigeria. And during that meeting, Mr. Jefferson offered that official a bribe to advance the Nigerian joint venture.
Mr. Jefferson subsequently told the cooperating witness that he had offered and that the Nigerian official had agreed to accept that bribe. One week later, Mr. Jefferson requested $100,000 in cash from the cooperating witness. Mr. Jefferson said he would provide the $100,000 in cash to the Nigerian official has a bribe payment. And on July 30th, the cooperating witness gave Mr. Jefferson $100,000 in cash.
Two days later, on August 1st, Mr. Jefferson told the cooperating witness that he had delivered what he called "the African art" to the Nigerian official. However, on or before August 3rd, Mr. Jefferson secreted in his freezer at his Washington, D.C., residence $90,000 of the $100,000 in cash that the cooperating witness had given to him. The $90,000 was separated into $10,000 increments, wrapped in aluminum foil, and concealed inside various frozen food containers.
The grand jury also charged Mr. Jefferson with directing the proceeds of his schemes to companies controlled by him and members of his family. For instance, the indictment alleges that beginning in 2001, Mr. Jefferson solicited bribes from iGate, a Kentucky telecommunications company. iGate paid those bribes to Mr. Jefferson so that he would use his position as a member of Congress to push iGate's business interest in Nigeria and Ghana.
According to the indictment, those bribe payments from iGate, almost $400,000 between 2001 and 2004, were directed by Mr. Jefferson to the ANJ -- Alpha, November, Juliet -- ANJ Group. ANJ was a company controlled by Mr. Jefferson and other members of his family and designed simply as a nominee company to receive things of value sought by Mr. Jefferson.
The indictment also details 11 separate bribe and mail and wire fraud schemes that formed the core of the RICO charge. Those schemes included efforts to secure telecommunications deals in Nigeria and Ghana; oil concessions in Equatorial Guinea; satellite transmission contracts in Botswana, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo; offshore oil rights in Sao Tome and Principe; the promotion and sale of waste recycling systems in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea; and the development of a sugar plant and other projects in Nigeria.
These are serious allegations prudently brought after a thorough and thoroughly professional investigation conducted by special agents and analysts from the FBI and from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, FinCEN, and by career prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the eastern district of Virginia and at the Criminal Division here at the Department of Justice.
The schemes charged are complex. The alleged criminal behavior is spread over time and distance. But the essence of the charges in this case are really rather simple. Mr. Jefferson corruptly traded on his good office and on the Congress where he served as a member of the United States House of Representatives to enrich himself and his family through a pervasive pattern of fraud, bribery and corruption that spanned many years and two continents.
I am pleased to introduce Ken Kaiser, the FBI assistant director in charge of its Criminal Investigative Division.
KEN KAISER, FBI ASST. DIRECTOR Good afternoon. My name is Ken Kaiser. I'm the assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.
Since 9/11, the FBI has had to prioritize its resources. For the criminal program, public corruption is our top national investigative priority. We did this because public corruption is different from other crimes.
It strikes at the heart of good government. It undermines the confidence of people in their government. And it's a cancer. When left alone, spreads quickly. We have -- we currently have over 2,000 public corruption cases pending across the United States.
Last year, we convicted approximately 1,000 government officials. As Director Mueller said last year, there's no level of acceptable corruption.
On some level, it does not matter whether the case involves a small town and a few thousand dollars, or the nation's capital and the sale of an elected official's office for hundreds of thousands of dollars. An oath is still broken. A trust is breached. And government is compromised. No price can be put on that betrayal.
Today's charges represent a grave breach of trust. An elected official used his office to further personal gain. If there are examples of why public corruption should be our top investigative priority, this is certainly one of those.
It is now my pleasure to introduce Joe Persachini (ph), assistant director of the Washington field office.
PHILLIPS: Obstruction of justice, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, bribery -- the list goes on. Sixteen counts as federal prosecutors there holding a live news conference at the Department of Justice, talking about the indictment today against Representative William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana.
It was a longstanding FBI corruption probe centering on these allegations that he took bribes to promote this high-tech business venture in Africa. You heard all the various places it was involved.
It's pretty interesting. I think one of the prosecutors put it perfectly -- a lot of complex schemes, but the charges are pretty simple. Bottom line, corruption and bribery.
We'll continue to follow, of course, this ongoing investigation now that the indictment has been issued, 16 counts against Representative William Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana. The man, you'll remember, $90,000 in cash found in his freezer. That turned into a massive investigation on behalf of the FBI. It turns out that he was involved with a number of business ventures within Africa.
We'll continue to follow the case.
HOLMES: Something else we're following, Paris Hilton. She is behind bars today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARIS HILTON, SOCIALITE: I'm really scared, but I'm ready to do this. And I hope that I'm an example to other young people when they make decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Not so simple of a life anymore.
That is ahead, here in the NEWSROOM.
HOLMES: All right. Well, forget D-Day. That's Wednesday. Today is P-Day. Yes, Paris, the heiress, spending her first full day in jail after turning herself in last night. And hours before at the MTV Movie Awards, Hilton sounded like she had come to terms with her terms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILTON: I'm trying to be strong right now. I'm definitely scared, but I'm ready to face my sentence. And even though this is a really hard time, I have my friends and family and my fans who support me, and it's just been really helpful in this really scary time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Scary time for a lot of us. What will we cover while she's in jail?
Paris is finally doing the time, which means it's time for us to talk to TMZ.com's Harvey Levin. He's in Glendale, California.
How are you always on top of this stuff? You've got the video of her going in. How did you know when she was going to be turning herself in?
HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM: Well, we worked hard this weekend, but we knew.
HOLMES: You knew.
LEVIN: We knew.
HOLMES: That's all you're going to give me, you knew?
LEVIN: Yes, that's it. Sorry.
HOLMES: Well, what was that process like, her going in last night? What time was that video taken anyway? And she kind of -- she did, she went in a little early.
LEVIN: She went -- well, actually, she went -- she went early and she went late. I'll explain.
LEVIN: She went to her parents' house, and that's where her lawyer, Rich Hutton (ph), picked her up. And along with her mom, Kathy Hilton, they went down not to the jail, but to another area of the sheriff's department a couple of miles away where she surrendered herself.
The sheriff wanted to do this because he just didn't want the pandemonium and wanted to basically -- wanted to have a decoy so that nobody knew where Paris was going. And then she got into a sheriff's vehicle from downtown L.A. and then went over to the Lynwood jail.
HOLMES: OK. And what's -- there's some debate now about what kind of shape or what kind of conditions she's living in.
This is her talking about it. We're going to listen to a sound bite of her talking about what kind of conditions she's going to have to live under in the jail. Then we'll talk about it with you on the other side.
So let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILTON: Well, I did have a choice to go to a pay jail, but I declined because I feel like the media portrays me in a way that I'm not. And that's I wanted to go to county, to show that I could do it. And I want to be treated like everyone else. And if I'm going to do the time, I'm going to do it the right way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: OK. Now, what is all that about? So she -- what kind of -- I understand that she's not really mingling around right now and she's in some kind of solitary confinement-type situation.
What's going on with her?
LEVIN: She is. She is basically in solitary 23 out of 24 hours every day.
For the one hour she's not in solitary -- and we're told this by law enforcement officials -- she's going to basically be allowed to go into this little pod area near the cell where she can get on her phone or take a shower, but that's it.
And I have to tell you, I mean, I think Paris Hilton got the shaft here. And TMZ has gone after her, you know, for various things. But not now.
I mean, nobody in a situation like the one she finds herself in, nobody would have gotten 45 days in jail for her violation. The average jail sentence for that kind of violation, when anybody goes into jail at all, is 2.3 days.
HOLMES: OK. You know, a lot of people shaking their head at you right now. Come on. Paris got the shaft and poor Paris.
LEVIN: The shaft.
HOLMES: Nobody's agreeing with you on that right now.
LEVIN: Why? Why?
HOLMES: Because, people -- her public perception. People will look at this woman and say, I don't feel sorry for her at all, spoiled little brat. I'm just saying you know a lot of people will say that.
LEVIN: Well, I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about, what is a judge supposed to do when somebody breaks the law?
And you have to look at what the normal -- what the normal sentence is. And this woman for -- you know, whether you love her or hate her, and I don't care what it is, she got punished for who she is, not for what she did. And judges are not supposed to do that.
It's really that simple.
HOLMES: Why the solitary confinement anyway? Why is that necessary, no matter what she did? That's reserved for hard core and misbehaving criminals is what we hear about solitary confinement.
LEVIN: The sheriff's department is in a tough situation here, because they have to make sure she is safe. And Paris Hilton is a big, fat target in this jail right now.
So what they wanted to do was they just wanted to make sure -- look, we want to make sure she's safe and that the integrity of the jail isn't compromised, and they kind of had to do that. My beef isn't that the sheriff's department is doing that. Mine is, frankly, I think she got hammered by a judge who had no business doing what he did.
HOLMES: And Harvey, a quick five seconds, she's going to come back bad as ever, come back and throw a big party and come back pretty strong when she gets out? LEVIN: The jury is out.
HOLMES: The jury is out.
All right. Harvey Levin, you guys are always on top of it over there at TMZ.com.
Good to see you, sir.
LEVIN: Good talking to you.
PHILLIPS: T.J., I'm sorry. I was reading some real news. I'm sorry.
HOLMES: Oh, come on!
PHILLIPS: OK. Excuse me.
Oh, here's another one. Maybe you should have read this one, too.
Mama mia. With her daughter Lindsay Lohan days into her second rehab stint -- here we go. We go for Paris -- don't you feel sorry for all these stars? Dina Lohan is reportedly in talks with E! now to do a reality show focused on her two youngest kids. "The New York Post's" Page Six says the show would focus on Dina's efnts to make 14- year-old Ali and 11-year-old Cody into stars as well.
Well, the closing bell and a wrap on all the action on Wall Street straight ahead.
HOLMES: We'll head over now to our Betty Nguyen now in the newsroom with details of a hostage situation at a strange place.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, at a McDonald's of all places, T.J.
NGUYEN: I want to show you some pictures coming in from Hampton, Virginia, where we understand a gunman is inside this McDonald's, holding some of the workers hostage.
If you look real closely at the middle of your screen, you can see some tactical units trying to go inside. It looks like some of them are coming back out now.
What we know so far from Corporal Alison Goode (ph) on the ground there is that a gunman is inside, contacted authorities saying that this person is holding several of the employees hostage. Now, some of the customers inside this McDonald's were allowed to leave. In fact, all of them were allowed to leave on their own.
And so, the S.W.A.T. team is there, the tactical unit there. We have not heard of any shots being fired or any injuries at this point, but a hostage negotiator is on scene. So we'll keep a watch of all of this for you -- T.J.
HOLMES: All right, Betty. Thank you so much.
PHILLIPS: Let's check in now with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. He's standing by in Manchester, New Hampshire, to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
PHILLIPS: Now we get to Wolf Blitzer.
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