Ex-lobbyist faces sentencing in Abramoff scandal

AP News
Posted: Oct 26, 2011 3:06 AM
Ex-lobbyist faces sentencing in Abramoff scandal

A figure in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal who made a rare and unsuccessful attempt to fight criminal conviction is finding out whether he'll be heading to jail.

Ex-lobbyist Kevin Ring is scheduled for sentencing Wednesday on a jury's finding that he was guilty of bribing public officials with meals and event tickets. Prosecutors are requesting he get more than four years of imprisonment, which would give him one of the stiffest sentences in the far-reaching investigation. Only the ringleader, Abramoff, got a harsher penalty, with a six-year sentence.

The Justice Department initially suggested a 17-year to 22-year sentencing guidelines range for Ring, but U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle rejected the idea and suggested that it appeared to justify Ring's suggestion that he was being retaliated against for exercising his constitutional right to trial. Most other figures in the scandal cooperated with investigators and pleaded guilty in deals that spared them jail time for similar conduct.

Huvelle ruled Ring's guideline range should be three to five years, but she is free to give him a lesser sentence and Ring is asking for probation. He submitted nearly 300 pages of letters from family and friends asking for leniency and describing how his career and his marriage have fallen apart during the course of the case. He said he has rung up more than $2 million in attorneys' fees.

Ring, a 41-year-old father of two from Kensington, Md., was convicted after two trials of five felony counts including conspiracy, payment of a gratuity and honest services wire fraud. The first jury couldn't agree on his guilt so he had a second trial that led to his conviction in November 2010. He was accused of bribing congressional and Bush administration officials with meals at fancy restaurants and tickets to sporting events and concerts, but he tried to argue he was only doing a lobbyist's work of building relationships with government figures.

Ring claims prosecutors charged him in a 10-count indictment after he refused to accuse his former boss, ex-Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., of being corrupted by his gifts. "Saying these things would have been a flat-out lie," Ring said in a letter to the judge in which he maintained his innocence while admitting he made many mistakes in his lobbying career in acting "unethically or just cowardly or stupidly."

"It became clear at a certain point that since I was not willing to incriminate Congressman Doolittle and others that I was going to pay a heavy price," Ring wrote, his first public explanation of his side of the case after he declined to put on a defense at trial.

Prosecutors deny he was pressured to lie and say he was offered a plea deal to admit his guilt without being required to testify against Doolittle or anyone else. "Unfortunately for Ring, 12 jurors decided beyond a reasonable doubt that Ring did have the intent to corrupt public officials, including Congressman Doolittle," the prosecutors wrote in a 39-page memo pushing for a prison term.

They said Ring's choice to submit a letter of support from Doolittle in which the congressman says he was never corruptly influenced by Ring "is particularly egregious" since the former congressman was the recipient of his bribes and could have testified during the trial and have been cross-examined.

Prosecutors wrote the judge that lobbyists will pay close attention to Ring's sentence and sending him to prison will deter "anyone who, like Ring, considers engaging in criminal conduct and winning at any cost."

They also argued that Ring's sentence should not be based on what others received since they cooperated in the investigation and accepted responsibility.