Monday, October 23, 2006
By Allan Lengel
NEW ORLEANS -- At a barbershop in the Third Ward, in an area still woozy from Hurricane Katrina's knockout punch, the chatter was about what to do with Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.).
"He's got my vote. I like Jefferson," shop owner Charles Harris said as he finished up a haircut. "They haven't indicted him, number one. Whenever they come up with some concrete evidence, that might change things."
"I ain't voting for him 'cause of the $100,000 in the freezer," retorted one of Harris's customers, a former Jefferson supporter who declined to give his name. "You find $100,000 in your freezer, I ain't voting for you."
As Jefferson campaigns for a ninth term, the Harvard Law School graduate has shed little light on the federal investigation of bribery allegations, other than to insist on his innocence. In a TV ad, he talks about "the presumption of innocence afforded every person" and says, "For over 18 months, the federal government has investigated me and has yet to bring a single charge against me."
That message appears to be resonating among voters like Harris, and so, despite the constant threat of a federal indictment that sources familiar with the probe say is a foregone conclusion, the 59-year-old congressman is confidently campaigning.