Safavian Jury Yet to Reach Verdict

The Associated Press
Thursday, June 15, 2006; 6:22 PM

WASHINGTON -- A jury deliberated for a second day Thursday without reaching a verdict in the first trial arising from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

They are to resume on Friday trying to decide whether former Bush administration official David Safavian covered up his assistance to Republican influence-peddler Jack Abramoff.

The General Services Administration's chief of staff in 2002, Safavian allegedly concealed from GSA ethics officials, the GSA inspector general and Senate investigators his assistance to the now-convicted lobbyist. Abramoff wanted to buy, lease or redevelop two government properties including the Old Post Office in downtown Washington.

The jury of 10 women and two men is considering whether Safavian is guilty on two counts of engaging in obstruction and three counts of making false statements.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman dismissed a juror Wednesday morning, seated the only remaining alternate juror, a woman, and told the revised jury to begin deliberations anew. The jury originally started deliberating Tuesday.

The juror had done independent research and had talked to people she should not have about the case, according to the judge.

Safavian, a former chief federal procurement officer in the Bush White House, acknowledged on the witness stand that Abramoff e-mailed him that he was working on trying to buy or lease 40 acres of the GSA's White Oak property in Maryland for a school Abramoff set up. Safavian also acknowledged he knew Abramoff "was putting together a team in order to bid" on the redevelopment of the Old Post Office a few blocks from the White House.

But he said he didn't tell GSA officials and the Senate about his advice to Abramoff because the GSA had not decided in 2002 what to do with the properties so he didn't consider that Abramoff's inquiries amounted to doing or seeking business with the agency.

© 2006 The Associated Press