(CN) – The central witness against Congressman William Jefferson, who wore a wire and delivered a briefcase filled with cash, will not testify in the congressman’s corruption trial, said the chief prosecutor. She is vulnerable to a defense attack on grounds that she drank a lot of wine and had a fondness for intrigue.
Jury selection began Wednesday in Federal Court in Alexandria, Va. Tape recordings of Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody’s conversations with Jefferson are central to the government’s case against Jefferson. The recordings will be played for the jury, but Mody will not take the stand.
Jefferson, a Democrat who represented New Orleans in Congress for nine terms, faces a 16-count indictment accusing him of racketeering and bribery. Jefferson is accused of taking more than $400,000 in bribes for brokering business deals in Africa.
After telling the FBI in March 2005 that she was victimized in Jefferson’s African investments, Mody agreed to wear a wire, and later delivered a briefcase containing $100,000 in marked bills to Jefferson, prosecutors say.
Federal agents say they found $90,000 wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed in frozen food containers in the freezer at Jefferson’s home in Washington, D.C. They say several numbers on bills from the freezer matched numbers on the bills Mody gave to Jefferson.
Were she to testify, the defense was expected to make Mody out as someone who battled mental illness and had a weakness for intrigue, and who, under the pressure of FBI agents, pushed Jefferson to take cash from her to bribe the Nigerian vice president. Jefferson’s attorney said Jefferson had no intention to actually accept or redistribute the bribe.
Jefferson’s attorneys in May filed previously unreleased transcripts of FBI recorded conversations that indicated that Mody “had a lot of personal issues” when she and Jefferson worked together on a Nigerian telecommunications project.
The documents indicate that the Justice Department had unsealed a document to reveal that something Mody had undergone – the specific phrase was edited out by court order – had affected her ability to concentrate and that she had often drunk large amounts of wine during dinners with Jefferson, which allegedly could have affected her memory.