A federal appeals court today upheld the conviction of a former Jack Abramoff lobbying associate who has been fighting charges against him since 2008.
Kevin Ring, who was a young lobbyist assisting Abramoff in the early 2000s, was convicted in 2010 on five counts of providing illegal gratuities, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy. He was found to have given meals, event tickets and other things of value to government officials in exchange for actions favorable to his lobbying clients. A first trial ended in a hung jury.
Although the gifts Ring gave weren’t illegal per se, jurors convicted Ring after concluding he had intent to corrupt officials. Congress made such lobbyist gift-giving illegal in 2007 after a public uproar over the Abramoff scandal.
On appeal to the District of Columbia Circuit, Ring challenged the district court’s instructions on the honest-services counts, whether there was sufficient evidence to convict him on an illegal gratuity count, and whether the admission of evidence of his lawful campaign contributions unfairly prejudiced the jury.
Prosecutors from Justice Department headquarters originally recommend Ring serve up to 22 years in prison, then scaled the recommendation back to 50 months in prison after U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle in the District of Columbia ruled that 22 years was excessive.
Ring claimed prosecutors were trying to retaliate against for not agreeing to a plea deal and instead invoking his constitutional right to trial.
Ring’s argument about retaliation resonated because the lobbying scheme’s infamous ringleader and chief beneficiary, Abramoff, was sentenced to only four years after cooperating with prosecutors. Abramoff’s chief partner in crime, Michael Scanlon was sentenced to 20 months. Both men were ordered to pay restitution to victims of $20 million each.
The district court had stayed Ring’s 20-month sentence while his appeal was pending. The loss of the appeal now clears the way for Ring to enter prison.
Abramoff was released to a halfway house in June 2010 to serve the last six-months of a four-year sentence.