Former Rep. William Jefferson’s bribery and corruption conviction is “a big tragedy for the New Orleans Democrat,” said The Baton Rouge Advocate in an editorial, “but it’s an even bigger tragedy for Louisiana.” Jefferson became a “national punch line” four years ago when FBI agents found $90,000 in cash his freezer; now he’s also a “stain on the image” of a state already suffering under a reputation for corruption.
The bills in the freezer may have “spawned a thousand jokes about cold cash, frozen assets, and the like,” said Stephanie Grace in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. But the “great irony” is that while the $90,000, and his unshakable nickname, “Dollar Bill” Jefferson, were indirectly responsible for his guilty verdict, he was actually acquitted of the charge related to the freezer cash.
Thank goodness the jury convicted him on 11 other counts, said Marc Moore in PoliGazette. Jefferson was one of the most “baldly corrupt politicians of the decade,” and an acquittal would have undermined our already “shaky faith” in the U.S. justice system. This was a much-needed reminder that the powerful can’t “do as they please.”
There’s still something “tragic” in the fall of Louisiana’s first black congressman since Reconstruction, said Matthew Cooper in The Atlantic. People in his longtime Democratic New Orleans district were really excited about the election of a black, Harvard-trained lawyer in 1991. And if there’s a “hopeful sign” in this mess, it’s that those same constituents voted him out for a Republican, Joseph Cao, now the first Vietnamese member of Congress.