A former lobbyist who worked for Jack Abramoff was sentenced to just less than two years in federal prison Wednesday.

During an emotional hearing, the former Washington power broker cried and pleaded for mercy.

Federal prosecutors had argued that Kevin A. Ring — convicted in D.C. federal court of showering lawmakers and aides with gifts, meals and trips so they would help his clients — should spend more time in prison because he played a key role in a brazen corruption scheme that “shook the nation’s confidence” in its government institutions. They urged U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle to sentence Ring to more than four years.

Ring’s attorneys countered that their client deserved probation because he had learned his lesson and had paid a steep financial and human price: He became estranged from his wife, owes $1.5 million in legal fees and was needed at home to care for his two young daughters.

Dozens of friends and associates appeared in court to support Ring, and scores wrote supportive letters to Huvelle.

Through sobs, the 41-year-old Kensington resident requested leniency, saying he had made mistakes and “was ashamed and embarrassed to be here under these circumstances.”

The sentencing was “difficult,” Huvelle said, because she wanted to punish Ring in a way that reflected his conduct and was in line with sentences received by others in the scam.

Prosecutors had argued that Ring should receive a stiff sentence because he was one of the top players in the scheme. But Huvelle said she felt that the term prosecutors sought — which was more than Abramoff received — was excessive.

“He wasn’t comparable to Mr. Abramoff,” the judge said in court Wednesday. “He was a cog in the wheel.”

But Huvelle also said that probation was unrealistic, saying she wanted to send a message that Ring’s crimes should not be tolerated.

In the end, the judge settled on a sentence of one year and eight months. She wrestled with the issue in the context of money and politics, noting that legal campaign donations play a significant role in political life. As Ring addressed the court, describing his willingness to work in lobbying’s ”gray areas,” Huvelle interrupted him.

“What creates this culture?” she asked.

Ring was quiet for a moment, then answered that government is involved in “every aspect” of American life and companies in particular put lobbyists “on the field” to get what they can.

Ring’s first trial ended in a hung jury in 2009. He was convicted on five felony charges, including conspiring to corrupt officials and honest services fraud, in a second trial in November. Huvelle stayed the sentence pending Ring’s expected appeal.

To date, 20 people — including lawmakers and lobbyists — have been convicted in the Abramoff scandal, according to the Justice Department. One remains to be sentenced.