You may remember the name of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. During the chaos of Hurricane Katrina - while thousands were using every manner of transportation to flee the hurricane - Jefferson had a military helicopter "rescue" him from his home. And then he left.
Well, Rep. Jefferson is in even more hot water now. He was charged with 11 bribery and 16 criminal counts last week. The feds say Jefferson solicited bribes totaling more than $500,000 to use his Congressional office to broker business deals in Africa.
Rep. Jefferson, of course, says he's innocent. Our system of justice gives him that right. But the feds say they have eight file cabinets filled with documents detailing his bribery along with extensive tape recordings. And Jefferson will be hard pressed to explain the $90,000 in cash the feds found in his freezer two years ago.
Jefferson says he wants to clear his name. Since he's facing charges of racketeering, soliciting bribes, wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice, that task may be formidable.
Here's the frustration. Despite the freezer money and the talk of indictments, the fine folk of Louisiana re-elected Jefferson last November. That's for starters. But as important, where is the outrage? Were Jefferson a Republican, rest assured the powers-that-be would be calling for his head. But since Jefferson is a Democrat, the silence is astounding.
William Jefferson is not the first nor will he be the last politician caught with his hand in the till. Greed is an equal opportunity evil. It strikes all races, all parties without limits. But like it or not, we treat different people in different ways when the evidence is overwhelming. The Democrats hope the Jefferson fiasco is all-but-forgotten when next year's election rolls around. They are right. But that doesn't make it right.
Jefferson will be able to stall this case for years. And he'll quietly fade from the public spotlight. And his district will make all sorts of excuses.
Our system of justice says that you are innocent until proven guilty. That applies to you and to me and to Rep. William Jefferson. Yet logic and common sense and an avalanche of evidence would indicate that Jefferson has his work cut out for him. It's just too bad that our public memory is so short. We've almost come to expect this behavior. And as long as we expect it, believe me, that is what we'll get.