Justice Dept Seeks Reduced Abramoff Sentence
Since his conviction on fraud and conspiracy charges, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has spent more than 3,000 hours helping more than 100 law enforcement agents in an ongoing federal corruption probe that has implicated "scores of other persons not yet charged," attorneys said in court filings today.
The Post's James V. Grimaldi reports that the extent of Abramoff's cooperation was described in documents from both prosecutors and defense lawyers. They are seeking leniency from the judges who heard the two cases that landed the Republican influence broker in federal prison in Cumberland, Md.
If a federal judge in Washington accepts the recommendation from the Justice Department, Abramoff would serve no more than another three years and three months in prison, not accounting for credit for good behavior awarded by the Bureau of Prisons. Abramoff's attorneys are seeking even more leniency that could have him released from prison by 2010.
In November 2006, Abramoff began serving a sentence of five years and 10 months for fraud in his purchase of a Florida casino cruise line. Attorneys for both sides are seeking a reduction to three years and nine months.
Abramoff's sentencing in a parallel case of tax evasion, fraud and conspiracy to ply public officials with gifts in exchange for official actions had been delayed until he had mostly completed his cooperation with authorities. The sentencing is set for Sept. 4 before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle.
In the public corruption case, the Justice Department is asking Huvelle to sentence Abramoff to five years and four months rather than the maximum 11 years and three months he'd be eligible to receive. The sentences in the two cases would be served at the same time. The government also is seeking about $23 million in restitution.
Abramoff attorneys Abbe D. Lowell of Washington and Neal R.Sonnett of Miami noted in a memorandum that in addition to the meeting with FBI and other agents, Abramoff had reviewed more than a half-million documents.
They also noted that the ex-powerhouse lobbyist had helped convict more than a dozen people, in addition to admitting guilt himself, and his case had prompted reforms that the attorneys said were widely known as "Abramoff Ethics Rules." Among those who have pleaded guilty were former Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio), who this month was released after he completed his prison sentence, and J. Steven Griles, the No. 2 official in the Interior Department.
The court papers indicate an extensive ongoing investigation by referencing a document that is sealed because it contains grand jury information. Still under investigation are former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and retiring Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), among others.
One new scheme revealed in the papers is that Abramoff and his team of K Street lobbyists padded their billing records -- not to cheat clients, most of whom had hired them on retainer, but to bilk additional bonuses out of their firm, Greenberg Traurig LLP, because "padded hours possibly resulted in higher bonuses," according to a government brief signed by William Welch, head of the public integrity section, and prosecutor Mary Butler.
Abramoff's attorneys also referred to a statement by Noel Hillman, former public integrity chief at Justice and now is a federal judge in New Jersey, who has said that Mr. Abramoff's decision to plead guilty and cooperate and expose the wrongs he and others did was a 'watershed' event in addressing public corruption."
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