The Washington Post

U.S. seeks 2-year prison term for key witness in Abramoff scandal

Federal prosecutors recommended a two-year prison term Friday for an ex-aide to former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) who became a key government witness in the pursuit of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Michael Scanlon, a spokesman for DeLay who became a top partner with Abramoff, faces sentencing Feb. 11 before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle.

Scanlon's case is one of the last remaining from the 2000 to 2005 scandal, in which lobbyists showered lawmakers and other federal officials with lavish gifts, trips and luxury meals and tickets in exchange for government favors.

Scanlon was the first to plead guilty, in November 2005. Prosecutors said his early and detailed cooperation helped crack open the case, which led to 20 convictions.

In addition to Abramoff, who recently completed a four-year prison sentence, former representative Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) was sentenced to 21/2 years in prison, and former deputy interior secretary J. Steven Griles received 10 months. A final trial in the scandal, of a former House transportation committee aide, is underway.

Scanlon faced up to five years in prison for admitting to conspiracy to commit bribery, fraud and honest-services fraud by bribing a congressman and other public officials. However, prosecutors said he should face less than half of the 51-month prison term recommended at the low end of federal sentencing guidelines.

"The Government greatly credits Scanlon for being the first one to cooperate with the Government, and, consequently, considers Scanlon's cooperation as contributing to the success of all of the prosecutions," leaders of the Justice Department's public integrity and fraud sections wrote in a 25-page filing.

"With Scanlon's assistance, the investigation revealed to law enforcement officials and the public the manner and means used by government officials to game the system for private advantage in violation of criminal laws and regulatory and ethical requirements," they said.

An attorney for Scanlon, John F. Hundley of the firm Trout Cacheris, was traveling Friday and not immediately available for comment about what his client would seek as a sentence.

Prosecutors said Scanlon is also contesting $19.6 million he agreed to pay in restitution in his plea deal, arguing that Abramoff's former firm, Greenberg Traurig, has already mostly paid back clients and victims in the case.

The Justice Department said that if Scanlon wanted to avoid reimbursing Greenberg Traurig, it would be up to him to prove that the firm was aware of Abramoff's and Scanlon's criminal activity. It recommended that Huvelle set up a separate hearing between the parties.

Spencer S. Hsu is an investigative reporter, two-time Pulitzer finalist and national Emmy award nominee.

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