Convicted lobbyist Kevin Ring says federal prosecutors pressured him to lie about the nature of his dealings with then-Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), dangling the possibility of an attractive plea deal if he helped the government make a case against his former boss and friend.
In a letter to U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle in which he pleas for a lenient sentence, Ring, convicted as part of the Jack Abramoff scandal, writes that prosecutors “made it clear what I needed to say to get a deal.” He continued:”The prosecutors wanted me to say that Congressman Doolittle took official acts to help my clients because I gave him a stream of things of value, and if I had stopped giving him such things, he would have stopped taking official acts (or, at least, taken fewer acts). Saying these things would have been a flat-out lie.”
Ring was a former staffer in Doolittle’s congressional office and writes that and he and his wife became close friends with the California Republican. Last month, Huvelle scaled back the Justice Department’s recommended prison sentence of up to 22 years for Ring, suggesting prosecutors were attempting to punish him for exercising his constitutional right to trial rather than accepting a plea deal.
“It became clear at a certain point that since I was not willing to incriminate Congressman Doolitle and others that I was going to pay a heavy price,” Ring wrote in his letter.
Asked about the allegations, a Justice Department spokeswoman said in a statement: “We will respond in court, as per our usual practice, to defendants’ claims in matters pending sentencing.”
Ring was a lobbying associate of Abramoff in the early to mid-2000s at the law firm then known as Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP and later at Greenberg Traurig LLP.
He was convicted last November in federal court in Washington, D.C., of paying an illegal gratuity, six counts of honest services wire fraud, and one conspiracy count. The jury agreed that Ring gave expensive restaurant meals and tickets to sporting and music events to public officials to influence their actions in favor of his and Abramoff’s lobbying clients. Ring’s first trial in 2009 resulted in a hung jury.
The government had evidence that Ring helped to facilitate a make-work job with Abramoff for Doolittle’s wife, Julie, which the government investigated as a potentially corrupt payment intended to influence the congressman.
Prosecutors had wanted Ring to go to prison longer than any other defendant in the sprawling public corruption probe, including Abramoff, the mastermind. They argued that an assessment of the facts of his case under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines justified the punishment, but Huvelle concluded that Ring’s recommended sentence should be no more than 4 years and 9 months in prison. Ring’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 26.
Ring’s attorneys have asked for a term of 60 months of probation. Attached to that request is a lengthy volume of letters from his estranged wife, former colleagues, friends and family members supporting a leniency request. That volume includes the letter from Ring providing an explanation of why he chose to go to trial, rather than plead guilty. “The effort to defend myself was not a game to me or an attempt to prove the prosecutors wrong,” Ring wrote.
Ring did not testify at either of his trials. He added that he was writing the lengthy letter to Huvelle now because she hasn’t heard why he chose to go to trial rather than accept a plea deal, as most of the other Abramoff defendants did.
“I was not only being asked to lie about my actions and my relationship with Congressman Doolittle (and others, as I came to learn), but I believed that I was being asked to condemn a person to prison,” he wrote. “I had no doubt then and even less today that my false testimony could have sent the congressman, Julie and perhaps some on his staff to jail for crimes I did not think any of them had committed.”