Abramoff Scandal Figures Sentenced
The woman who was lobbyist Jack Abramoff's conduit to the top ranks of the Interior Department was sentenced today to two months in a halfway house and four years' probation.
Italia Federici, the one-time president of a Republican environmental group, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to tax evasion and obstructing the Senate's investigation of Abramoff's lobbying for Indian tribes. Her colleague, Robert Jared Carpenter, was given a similar sentence for tax evasion later in the day. They are among more than a dozen people to be convicted in connection with the Abramoff scandal.
Prosecutors had asked Judge Ellen S. Huvelle to forgo any incarceration for Federici because of what they said was her assistance in the continuing corruption investigation. But the judge insisted that Federici serve some time in a halfway house.
Federici, 38, admitted she knowingly failed to pay income taxes on $187,000 in salary she drew over three years as president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy and that she "minimized the extent of information I had" when she testified about Abramoff and former deputy Interior secretary J. Steven Griles before openly skeptical members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
Federici served as a conduit for information between Abramoff, who had his tribal clients donate $500,000 to her group, and Griles, with whom she was linked romantically. Jonathan Rosen, Federici's lawyer, told the court that Federici "was used" by Abramoff and Griles. "This young D.C. neophyte... each man used her for his own pleasure and gain," said Rosen.
But Judge Huvelle asked why anyone would "believe for a minute" that Abramoff's client contributions were not connected to Federici's role as an intermediary, passing along Abramoff's requests to Griles. Were his constant stream of communications a coincidence? She asked Federici: "You didn't understand there was any quid pro quo going on?"
"It did strike me as odd," said Federici. But, she said, "at the time I viewed Mr. Abramoff as what we in the nonprofit community call an angel," explaining that she saw him as "a truly ideologally aligned Republican." CREA was orginally founded by former Interior Secretary Gale Norton and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.
During the sentencing of Carpenter, who was the vice president of CREA, his lawyer told the judge that Federici also had been romantically involved with Carpenter. Prosecutors had asked that Carpenter be sentenced to a term of 10 to 16 months in jail, but Judge Huevelle said she could not see giving Carpenter a more severe punishment than his former boss. He was given 45 days in a halfway house plus four years' probation.
Carpenter's lawyer G. Allen Dale called his client "a footnote in the Abramoff investigation." Carpenter, said Dale, knew nothing of Federici's dealings with Griles, explaining: "Italia and Mr. Carpenter were lovers. She didn't share pillow talk with him... that was her little secret world."
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