Former California Congressman Richard T. Hanna, who admitted he accepted more than $200,000 from South Korean businessman Tongsun Park as part of Korean conspiracy to buy influence in Congress, was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court to serve six to 30 months in prison.
Hanna, 63, the first former member of Congress to be convicted in connection with the influence-buying scheme, is scheduled to report on May 8 to the federal penitentiary at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama to begin his prison term. He will be eligible for parole after serving six months.
Hanna, his voice breaking, told Chief Judge William B. Bryant before he was sentenced, "I apologize as a lawyer who should never be in court in this stance, I apologize as a person who held public office.
"I know what your job has to be and I hope my coping with what you have to do will help atone for what I have done."
Hanna, a Democrat who served in Congress from 1963 to 1975, pleaded guilty last March to one count of conspiracy after government prosescutors said they could prove that in return for the money, Hanna took various actions on behalf of the Korean government. Those actions included insertion of statements favorable to that government into the Congressional Record and initiation of trips by congressional delegations to Korea.
Judge Bryant sentenced Hanna - without comment - after his lawyer, Charles A. McNelis, made a lengthy plea for probation, instead of a jail term.
Hanna, with his head bowed, stood at McNelis' side as the lawyer reminded Bryant that Hanna had cooperated with investigators from Congress and the Justice Department and had taken a lie detector test administered by the FBI. The test, McNelis said, showed Hanna had been truthful "on all critical matters." Some portions of the test were termed "inconclusive," McNelis said later.
In a speech that lasted almost a half hour, McNelis noted that numerous letters had been written to the court in Hanna behalf, including one from Leon A. Jaworski, special counsel to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which is investigating the Korean scheme.
Jaworski, in his letter, described Hanna as "candid . . . forthright and uniquely helpful" to the committee, McNelis told Bryant, who listened impassviely.
McNelis disputed a portion of a presentence report, submitted to Bryant, which McNelis said implied that Hanna had failed to "accept that his acts were illegal."
At a press conference later, Hanna called the statement, which was made by a probation officer, "ridiculous."
"If I didn't think it was illegal I wouldn't be here," Hanna told reporters.
As part of a plea-bargaining agreement with Hanna, the government had reserved the right to ask Bryant to sentence Hanna to the maximum five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.
Justice Department attorney Jeffrey S. White said he had intended to make a statement at yesterday's hearing, but was pre-empted by Bryant, who sentenced Hanna immediately after the former congressman made his comments, without recognizing the government prosecutor.
White said he considered the sentence "appropriate" considering the seriousness of the offense and Hanna's "personal situation." Hanna, who now lives in Fayetteville, Ark., has been married for 33 years and has several adopted children. He said his income totals about $2,500 a month from his congressional pension, his pension as a former California state legislator and from Social Security benefits.
At the close of yesterday's hearing, White told Bryant that the government would drop another 39 criminal charges against Hanna.
Hanna is one of two former congressmen charged in the Korean bribery scheme. Former Rep. Otto E. Passman (D-La.) was indicted March 31 on a charge of accepting $213,000 in cash from Park. Passman, in return, allegedly urged the South Korean government to buy Louisiana rice through Park, a federal grand jury has charged.
Further action in that case has been delayed because Passman, 77, who entered a New Orleans hospital two days before the indictment, contends he is too ill to stand trial. He has consistently denied the charges.
Justice Department sources have said several additional indictments of former congressmen are expected later this year.
In a related case, a federal jury here has convicted Korean-born cosmetics merchant Hancho Kim of receiving $600,000 from the Korean Central Intelligence Agency and then lying about the payment to a federal grand jury. The money was supposed to be used to influence members of Congress, but the government implied at the trial that Kim spent the money himself.