A federal judge has held that the FBI search of Louisiana Democratic Congressman William Jefferson's Capitol office was legal:
A federal judge on Monday upheld the FBI's unprecedented raid of a congressional office, saying that barring searches of lawmakers' offices would turn Capitol Hill into "a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime."
Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan rejected requests from lawmakers and Rep. William Jefferson to return material seized by the FBI in a May 20-21 search of Jefferson's office.
The overnight search was part of a 17-month bribery investigation of Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat.
In a 28-page opinion, Hogan dismissed arguments by Jefferson and a bipartisan group of House leaders that the raid violated the Constitution's protections against intimidation of elected officials.
Hogan acknowledged the "unprecedented" nature of the case. But he said the lawmakers' "sweeping" theory of legislative privilege "would have the effect of converting every congressional office into a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime."
A member of Congress is bound by the same laws as ordinary citizens, said the judge, who had approved the FBI's request to conduct the overnight search of Jefferson's office.
Jefferson had sought the return of several computer hard drives, floppy disks and two boxes of paper documents that FBI agents seized during the 18-hour search of his Rayburn Building office.
Hogan said the Justice Department can retake custody of the materials, which President Bush ordered held by the solicitor general until Congress and the agency could work out procedures for future raids on congressional offices.
BINGO. Congressional representatives are not above the law. Their offices are not holy shrines. Rep. William Jefferson, allegedly caught with $10,000 in cold cash in his freezer after having been videotaped accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from someone wearing an FBI wire, should be embarassed to even make such an argument.