By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 17, 2007
A former Capitol Hill aide was sentenced yesterday to two years of probation but avoided jail time because of his unusual role in helping the FBI and the Justice Department convict his former boss, disgraced Ohio congressman Robert W. Ney (R).
William Heaton, 29, who worked for Ney for five years, was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine as partial repayment for tens of thousands of dollars in gambling chips, overseas travel and other benefits that he admitted receiving because of the relationship between Ney and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Heaton -- who was at one point the youngest chief of staff on Capitol Hill -- said before the sentencing that he is sorry for failing to "make moral, just choices and to serve our country honestly."
"My choices disappoint me greatly," Heaton told U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in Washington. "American citizens should be able to trust those who work on their behalf. I violated that trust."
Both Huvelle and federal prosecutors credited Heaton's cooperation as crucial to the government's successful case against Ney, who resigned from Congress and is serving a 30-month sentence in federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va., after pleading guilty to corruption charges.
Heaton taped numerous telephone calls and wore a hidden wire to a 2 1/2 -hour meeting with Ney as part of the broad FBI and Justice Department investigation of illegal activities by Abramoff. Prosecutors had recommended home confinement, but Huvelle said Heaton's cooperation "has gone beyond the usual."
"People don't generally walk around congressmen wearing a wire," Huvelle said. She ordered Heaton to serve 50 hours of community service per year during his probation.
Heaton pleaded guilty in February to conspiring with Ney and Abramoff in their corruption scheme, which included Ney performing official acts for Abramoff's lobbying clients between 2001 and 2004 in exchange for luxury trips, meals, sports tickets and gambling chips.