Abramoff Gets Reduced Sentence of Four Years in Prison
Friday, September 5, 2008
Jack Abramoff, the powerhouse Washington lobbyist who admitted running a wide-ranging corruption scheme that ensnared lawmakers, Capitol Hill aides and government officials, yesterday received a reduced sentence of four years in prison because of his cooperation with federal investigators.
Abramoff, 49, already has served nearly two years for his conviction in a related Florida fraud case. The sentence yesterday by U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle means that the former Republican lobbyist will likely remain in prison until 2012.
More than a dozen people, including an Ohio congressman and a deputy secretary of the interior, have been convicted in the Abramoff lobbying scandal, and Justice Department officials said the investigation is continuing. Still under scrutiny are former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and retiring Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.).
With his wife and children sitting just a few feet away in a packed courtroom, Abramoff choked back tears yesterday as he watched lawyers argue over his sentence. He then told Huvelle that he was sorry for his crimes, adding that he was no longer the person "who happily and arrogantly engaged in a lifestyle of political corruption and business corruption."
"I am sorry, so sorry that I have put everyone through this," Abramoff said.
Under federal guidelines, Huvelle could have sentenced Abramoff to as much as 12 1/2 years. She said she had to weigh the former lobbyist's help against what she described as offenses that seriously affected "the public's confidence in the integrity of the government."
"This is a very challenging case," Huvelle said, adding that "there was a consistent course of corrupt conduct and, in a sense, it got much worse over time."
Prosecutors had asked for a lesser sentence because of Abramoff's cooperation -- three years and three months. In court papers, the prosecutors wrote that Abramoff has described in detail how he and other lobbyists supplied meals, gifts, trips and "a stream of things of value to public officials in exchange for a stream of official action."
"He has helped us enormously in ferreting out from a huge database of allegations what really is criminal," Mary K. Butler, a Justice prosecutor, told Huvelle. "That help alone saved the government countless resources."
Abramoff's attorneys sought an even more lenient sentence that could have allowed their client to be released as early as 2010. His lead lawyer, Abbe D. Lowell, told Huvelle that such a sentence was appropriate because Abramoff was a devoted family man and donated much of his income and time to charity work. "The myth of Jack Abramoff can overtake the actual man," Lowell said.
Huvelle received more than 350 letters in Abramoff's behalf.
The Justice Department said it has garnered 13 guilty pleas from public officials and lobbyists in the Abramoff case. The conviction of David H. Safavian, a former top official at the General Services Administration, was overturned in June by an appeals court; a retrial is scheduled for December.