Safavian Asks Judge To Overturn Conviction

Associated Press
Friday, August 25, 2006

A former Bush administration official convicted of lying about his relationship with lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked a judge yesterday to overturn the verdict or grant him a new trial.

David H. Safavian, former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, was convicted in June of obstruction of justice and making false statements. His attorneys argued that the charges did not meet the legal standard for conviction. They also argued that U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman improperly admitted e-mails between Abramoff and Safavian as evidence. The e-mails discuss two pieces of GSA-controlled property that Abramoff wanted for himself or his lobbying clients.

Many of the e-mails were written around the time that Safavian accepted a week-long trans-Atlantic golfing trip from Abramoff.

Friedman heard more than two hours of arguments Wednesday but did not issue an opinion.

Defense attorney Albert Lambert maintained that when Safavian told GSA officials that Abramoff did not have business with the agency, he was not lying because the wording was ambiguous. Lambert said that Safavian was never advised of the consequences of lying and that his statements did not hinder any investigations.

"They argue that it's acceptable for a public servant to willfully speak half-truths with the intent to deceive," prosecutor Nathaniel B. Edmonds said.

Friedman said he thinks allowing jurors to see the e-mails was appropriate. "I'm not sure there's anything you said in your briefs or in here that persuades me that I was wrong," he said.

Safavian faces up to five years in prison on each count.

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