The U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Maryland honored its top performers on Thursday in a ceremony in Baltimore. In addition to 11 employees in the office, awards went to a member of a DEA task force and the father of a slain carjacking victim.
“The award recipients demonstrated exceptional skill, dedication and commitment to pursuing justice while upholding the highest ethical and professional standards,” U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.
The office also welcomed eight new Assistant U.S. Attorneys and seven other new employees.
See the list of honorees and new hires below.
Gary Jordan Award
Recipient: Stuart A. Berman, Chief, Southern Division
Gary P. Jordan served with distinction for many years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, as First Assistant from March 29, 1987 until his death on October 25, 1996, and as interim U.S. Attorney in 1993. This is an honorary award presented annually to an Assistant U.S. Attorney for exemplary performance that demonstrates the highest traditions of the office: integrity, ingenuity, dedication to public service and fairness.
Barnet D. Skolnik Award
Recipients: Debra Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney; Kwame J. Manley, Deputy Chief, Violent Crime Section
Barnet D. (Barney) Skolnik was an Assistant U.S. Attorney who led teams that prosecuted numerous white collar criminals and corrupt public officials in the 1970s, including Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. This is an honorary award presented annually to one or more Assistant U.S. Attorneys who demonstrate outstanding professionalism, determination and creativity in a case of unusual public significance.
Employee of the Year Award
Recipient: Timothy Garrett
The Employee of the Year Award recognizes sustained superior performance and outstanding achievements by a non-attorney employee. The award also recognizes the recipient’s professionalism, dedication and comprehensive knowledge in their area of expertise.
Pete Twardowicz Award
Recipient: Mark Howard, Deputy Sheriff, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, DEA Task Force Officer
The Pete Twardowicz Award was established in honor of Eugene P. (Pete) Twardowicz, who rendered many years of outstanding service to the U.S. Attorney’s Office as an IRS criminal investigator and a Special Investigator for this Office. This award recognizes law enforcement agents or officers for outstanding cooperation and achievement while working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on a significant case.
Excellence in Civil Advocacy
Recipient: Jason Medinger, Assistant U.S. Attorney
The U.S Attorney’s Award for Excellence in Civil Advocacy, established in 2007, is presented annually to an Assistant U.S. Attorney for outstanding advocacy in civil litigation.
Excellence in Prosecution of Fraud
Recipient: Jamie M. Bennett, Assistant U.S. Attorney
The U.S. Attorney’s Award for Excellence in Prosecution of Fraud, established in 2007, is presented annually to an Assistant U.S. Attorney for outstanding work in prosecuting fraud.
Excellence in Prosecution of Violent Crime
Recipients: Michael C. Hanlon, Chief, Violent Crime Section; Christopher M. Mason, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney
The U.S. Attorney’s Award for Excellence in Prosecution of Violent Crime, established in 2007, is presented annually an Assistant U.S. Attorney for outstanding work in prosecuting violent crime.
Excellence in Prosecution of Organized Crime
Recipients: Barbara S. Skalla, Assistant U.S. Attorney
The U.S. Attorney’s Award for Excellence in Prosecution of Organized Crime, established in 2007, is presented annually to an Assistant U.S. Attorney for outstanding work in prosecuting organized criminal activity.
Excellence in Legal Support
Recipients: Vanessa Davis, Supervisory Legal Assistant
The U.S. Attorney’s Award for Excellence in Legal Support, established in 2007, is presented annually to one or more non-attorney employees for outstanding work in support of the mission of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Outstanding Contributions to a Law Enforcement Initiative
Recipients: Tamera L. Fine, Assistant U.S. Attorney
The U.S. Attorney’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to a Law Enforcement Initiative, established in 2007, is presented annually to one or more employees for outstanding work in support of an initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Carl S. Lackl Award
Recipient: Wayne T. Fleming, Sr.
The Carl S. Lackl Award for Exemplary Perseverance and Fortitude in Pursuit of Justice was established in 2008 in honor of Carl Stanley Lackl, Jr. Mr. Lackl witnessed a murder in Baltimore in 2006 and agreed to testify against the suspect he identified. After the suspect was arrested by police and charged in state court with the murder, he used a contraband cellular telephone to contact co-conspirators and arranged to murder Mr. Lackl, who was shot to death outside his house in front of his daughter. All of the conspirators were convicted on federal charges.
In addition, the U.S. Attorney welcomed new employees who recently joined the office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys: Adam Ake; Benjamin Block; Stefan Cassella; Mark Crooks; Ayn Ducao; Justin Herring; Peter Nothstein; and Thiruvendran Vignarajah. Support Staff: Kim Carlton Baier; Theresa Beall; Andrew Branigan; Todd Hinson; Melissa Sloboda; Benjamin Walter; and Michelle Wicker.
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When a federal judge declared a mistrial in the government’s case against Kevin Ring last month, some asked, “What went wrong?”
We caught up with two of the jurors this week for some insight. Lucky us, one voted to convict (on all but one count) and the other to acquit.
First, a bit of background: The Justice Department has drawn 17 guilty pleas in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling probe, but prosecutors have suffered setbacks in the two cases in which defendants have opted for trial.
Ring is charged with conspiracy, handing out illegal gratuities and scheming to deprive taxpayers of the honest services of members of the executive and legislative branches. After nearly eight days of deliberation, the jury in Ring’s trial hung on all eight counts.
Prosecutors have said they intend have another go at it. Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, scheduled trial for June 21, after the Supreme Court hears arguments in three cases exploring the reach of the “honest services” law, with which Ring is charged.
Ring’s lawyers say he was a skilled lobbyist who used legal — if at times unseemly — methods to advance his clients’ interests. Prosecutors say he lavished public officials with meals and tickets to concerts and sporting events in return for helping Ring’s clients.
Our first juror — hereafter, Juror No. 1 — is 50 years old and a retired member of the Air Force. On Wednesday, he discussed his experience with us on the condition that he not be named.
JUROR No. 1
Main Justice: Let’s start with an outline of the deliberations.
Juror No. 1: We went through each count without a unanimous decision. Then we tried to do what we thought was the easiest one, which was count eight. [On the sixth day of deliberations, the jury informed Huvelle it had reached a verdict on this count, which involves a payment of $5,000 to a credit union account controlled by the wife of former Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.). The jurors voted to acquit but later split.] We reached a tentative verdict, but as we talked more and we better understood our own thoughts, some people just changed their minds on how they voted.
MJ: What was the vote on count eight?
Juror No. 1: It was really close. I think it was five [convict], six [acquit] and one [undecided].
MJ: And the other seven?
Juror No. 1: The rest, I believe, were eight [convict] and four [acquit]. [Click here for a copy of the indictment.]
MJ: How did you vote?
Juror No. 1: I voted not guilty on all counts.
MJ: Were the disagreements specific to each count or was there some common theme?
Juror No. 1: Everything required us to judge what he was thinking. We had to determine his state of mind, and that was a common thread through all the charges. That’s where we got hung up. That, in my mind, is almost an impossible task.
MJ: The government relied heavily on emails, many of which portrayed Ring and his colleagues gloating about lobbying victories and talking about handing out tickets and meals to public officials. How did his defense get past that?
Juror No. 1: He could have had a lot of intentions, and those emails weren’t enough to spell them out. He could have just been plying them with everything he needed to continue his access and influence, as lobbyists do. If the prosecution could have discriminated betwen lobbying and corrupt lobbying better, then they would have made their case. Even though [the government] had a mountain of evidence, it wasnt helpful in showing us what Kevin Ring was thinking.
MJ: Did you have any preconception of lobbyists? Did you at point before the deliberations have an idea of which way you were leaning?
Juror No. 1: I was really ignorant of the lobbying thing. I wasn’t able to prejudge. I was just like a sponge. And even when the trial and closing arguments were over, I didn’t know how I would decide until we actually had a conversation and looked at the counts.
MJ: Judge Huvelle kept saying you were one of the best juries she’s seen. What was the climate like in the jury room? Were you guys at each others’ throats?
Juror No. 1: No. This was a really intelligent group and they were great to work with. We ended up being a hung jury because we had irreconcilable differences, but everyone was respectful. We had an outstanding foreman. [The foreman, by the way, had some lobbying experience.]
MJ: Thank you, sir.
Juror No. 1: Glad to help.
JUROR No. 2
The second juror, Joy Stevenson, is an administrative assistant at Job Corps. We talked with her on Thursday.
Main Justice: Can you give me a sense of the divisions among the jury?
Stevenson: It was really heated at points. One gentleman, an attorney, he got up and he paced the floor and he was adamant that we could not prove Mr. Ring was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He and three or four others. There was an older lady…who just couldn’t see herself taking people out to dinner or to a game to influence them and so she couldn’t see Mr. Ring doing it. Overall, we formed relationships. We became friends. But some people took it personally.
MJ: How so?
Stevenson: It got to the point that [some of the jurors who favored acquittal] would fold their hands or read the paper. They would have side conversations while we were trying to deliberate. They weren’t even trying to change their minds.
MJ: What convinced you Ring was guilty?
Stevenson: The email traffic. You had Ring and the guys he worked with talking about how they they did this and that, how they loved the look in [a public official's] eyes when they knew they had them. They were very shrewd. They were very careful, and a lot of things they didn’t say. Their plan was very strategic, and that’s why they were so successful….It was very interesting to me how our laws and decisions are made based on power and money. If you’re speaking to the right person and you have the money, they you can influence them. They’re swayed. And I saw that. It was really something.
MJ: But it’s tough trying to get into someone’s mind, to prove intent.
Stevenson: It was kind of frustrating at times because we couldn’t find anything specifically to say, “Ring did this, or he did that,” based on the emails. And Judge Huvelle told us that there was no restriction on giving at the time. You had [Greenberg Traurig's] rules…but, legally, it felt like there was nothing we could use. It was like we were up against a brick wall.
MJ: Before the trial, did you have any preconceptions about lobbyists?
Stevenson: Not really, no. Going into that trial, for me, was like a refresher course [on civics]. It was great. I learned a whole lot.
MJ: Talk about the government’s case. How did the prosecutors do?
Stevenson: I think the government, I think those guys were great. I was very impressed with all of them….But I was looking for them to pull it all together at the end. You know, bam! There was no clincher.
MJ: Thanks, Ms. Stevenson.
Stevenson: Thank you.
A note about the jury list: Huvelle ask jurors to contact her if they wished to have their names release to the news media. Three jurors gave their consent. The others remain anonymous.
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A federal judge has scheduled a retrial for Jun. 21 in the case of Kevin Ring, a former associate of imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle declared a mistrial in the case on Thursday. Jurors failed to reach a verdict after more than a week of deliberations.
Ring is charged with conspiracy, handing out illegal gratuities and scheming to deprive taxpayers of the honest services of members of the executive and legislative branches. Ring’s lawyers say he was a skilled lobbyist who used legal tools to advance his clients’ interests.
At a hearing today, prosecutors requested a January or February trial date, but Huvelle wanted to wait for the Supreme Court’s review of the scope of the federal “honest services” fraud statute, which was used to charge Ring, The Associated Press reported. The Court is scheduled to hear arguments on Dec. 8.
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UPDATE: 4:40 p.m. Judge Huvelle has declared a mistrial on all counts. When Huvelle asked whether any further deliberation might result in a verdict, the jury foreman answered, simply: “No, your honor.”
Prosecutors made it clear the department will pursue the charges.
“Looks like we’ll be doing this all again,” said Michael Leotta, the Appellate Chief in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, before the jury entered the courtroom.
Ring, the first second Abramoff associate to go to trial rather than plead guilty, declined to comment as he left the courtroom.
Huvelle scheduled a status hearing for Monday. Ring’s lawyer, Miller & Chevalier’s Andrew Wise, said he would argue “vociferously” against going to trial in the next 70 days.
He noted the Supreme Court’s decision to take up three cases — including an appeal from former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling – exploring the scope of the “honest services” law. Ring is charged with depriving the taxpayers of the honest services of employees in the legislative and executive branches of government. The Court’s decision could impact his case and many others.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said during a panel discussion Thursday morning that the Justice Department has not instituted a moratorium on the charge pending the Court’s review.
After declaring a mistrial, Huvelle asked the jurors to discuss the case behind closed doors with her and the lawyers.
On their eighth day of deliberations, jurors in the trial of ex-lobbyist Kevin Ring, a former associate of Jack Abramoff, told a federal judge Thursday that they are “irrevocably blocked on a final unanimous verdict.”
The disclosure, in a note to U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, comes a day after both prosecutors and Ring’s defense lawyers urged the court to declare a mistrial — a request she declined grant.
However, Huvelle appeared to warm to the idea Thursday, telling the lawyers — absent the jury — that she was thinking of declaring a mistrial on seven of the eight counts Ring faces.
Ring is charged with conspiracy, giving illegal gratuities and depriving taxpayers of the honest services of public officials. Prosecutors say he lavished Justice Department officials, members of Congress and their staff with meals and tickets to concerts and sporting events in return for helping Ring’s clients.
On Tuesday, the jury told Huvelle it had reached a verdict on the eighth count involving a payment of $5,000 to a credit union account controlled by the wife of former California Republican Rep. John Doolittle.
In the intervening days, some of the jurors appear to have had a change of heart. In the note to Huvelle Thursday, the jury foreman said the deadlock was complete.
“We foresee no change in this status after six-plus days of deliberation and think unanimity for this jury is impossible,” the jury foreman wrote.
In a second note to Huvelle, the foreman said the jury had resolved to consider count eight only — but not until after lunch.
We’ll keep you posted.
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National Journal is reporting that prosecutors and defense lawyers for Kevin Ring, an ex-associate of Jack Abramoff asked a federal judge to declare a mistrial Wednesday.
The judge, Ellen Segal Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, declined the requests and instructed the jury to continue deliberations, which have spanned nearly seven days now.
In a note to Huvelle, the jury wrote, ”We do not see how we can reach a verdict,” according to National Journal.
On Tuesday, jurors told the Huvelle they’d reached a verdict on one of the charges but were stuck on the other seven. (They jury did not reveal the nature of the verdict.) Ring is charged with conspiracy, doling out illegal gratuities and depriving taxpayers of the honest services of public officials.
According to National Journal, prosecutors and defense lawyers said enough was enough.
“Let them go…. Declare a mistrial,” Andrew Wise, Ring’s attorney, said. “This jury has been at it for an extended period.”
“Take the verdict [on the one count], declare a mistrial… and get another trial moving as quickly as possible,” prosecutor Nathaniel Edmonds suggested.
Huvelle said that “given the length of the trial” — about three weeks — “the amount of evidence and the complications of the case,” the jury should continue deliberations.
Ring called for a mistrial last week, after a jury foreman alerted Huvelle to a barred exhibit the government mistakenly included in his evidence binder.
Ring is represented by Miller & Chevalier’s Wise and Timothy O’Toole. The team of prosecutors includes Edmonds, of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section; Michael Ferrara, of the Public Integrity Section; and Michael Leotta, Appellate Chief in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
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The Associated Press has the latest in the trial of Kevin Ring, an ex-associate of imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Tuesday was the sixth day of jury deliberations.
Jurors have reached a verdict on one criminal charge and appear deadlocked on seven others in the trial of a lobbyist caught up in the Jack Abramoff influence peddling scandal.
The jury for Kevin Ring decided Tuesday to keep secret its verdict on the one count for now after being directed by U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle to resume deliberations Wednesday.
The charge involves a payment of $5,000 to a credit union account controlled by the wife of former California Republican Rep. John Doolittle.
In a note to Huvelle, the second of the day, jurors said that deliberations had been contentious and that arguments had shown no sign of movement toward a verdict, The AP reported. Huvelle told the jurors to continue deliberating.
In the first note, the panel asked Huvelle whether there was a limit on the dollar value of gifts Team Abramoff could give to public officials. (No, she told them.)
Ring is charged with conspiracy, giving illegal gratuities and depriving taxpayers of the honest services of public officials. Prosecutors allege Ring lavished public officials with meals and tickets to sporting events and concerts in return for helping his clients. His lawyers say Ring excelled at his profession, using only legal tools to influence members of Congress, their staff and Justice Department officials.
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Jury deliberations in the trial of Kevin Ring, an ex-associate of Jack Abramoff accused of corrupting public officials, were interrupted Thursday, after the jury foreman informed a federal judge that the government mistakenly provided him with a barred exhibit.
Judge Ellen Huvelle, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, declined to call a mistrial. But she summoned the jury for additional instructions.
Jurors have been mulling Ring’s fate since Monday. Ring is charged with honest services wire fraud, giving illegal gratuities and conspiring to do both. Prosecutors allege Ring lavished public officials with meals and tickets to sporting events and concerts in return for advancing the interests of his clients.
The exhibit in question is a plea deal between the government and Robert Coughlin II, one of Ring’s longtime friends and a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison. Coughlin pleaded guilty in April 2008 to a conflict of interest charge.
He admitted helping Ring secure a $16.3 million grant for a jail for one of Ring’s tribal clients in return for meals and sporting tickets. Coughlin was not in a position to award the money, but he arranged for Ring to meet with high-ranking department officials and provided him with information to bolster Ring’s arguments for funding the grant.
Prosecutors removed Coughlin from their witness list on the eve of trial. During a mock cross-examination, he told prosecutors that he was unfairly targeted for prosecution and that “the things of value Mr. Ring gave him did not influence his official actions,” according to a government letter to Ring’s lawyers.
Huvelle struck the plea agreement from the Ring trial when it was clear Coughlin would not be called to testify, but the government left the document in the jury foreman’s evidence binder. Prosecutors compiled the binders. The defense team was given the opportunity to review the binders before the jurors received them.
The foreman told Huvelle he had given the exhibit a “cursory” review. He alerted other jurors to the government’s mistake, though he did not discuss the substance of Coughlin’s plea deal with them.
After considering draft instructions from both parties, Huvelle called in the jurors and told them to disregard the exhibit. She explained that Coughlin’s plea deal was in no way evidence of Ring’s guilt and that he did not plead guilty to any of the charges Ring is facing.
Court officers are sifting through the binders for other stray documents.
Ring is represented by Miller & Chevalier’s Andrew Wise and Timothy O’Toole. The team of prosecutors includes Nathaniel Edmonds, of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section; Michael Ferrara, of the Public Integrity Section; and Michael Leotta, Appellate Chief in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
This original version of this post incorrectly stated that the jury was deadlocked.
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In closing arguments today, Justice Department prosecutors portrayed Kevin Ring, a former associate of Jack Abramoff, as an aggressive young member of a lobbying team that was corrupt to its core. But Ring’s lawyer insisted his client found legal, if occasionally unseemly, ways to navigate the currents of Washington and thrive professionally.
The case, which went to the jury this afternoon after four hours of closing arguments and three weeks of trial, explored relationships between Justice Department officials and Team Abramoff. It is also a high-profile undertaking for the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity and Fraud sections, which collaborated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland on the case.
Ring is accused of plying public officials with meals and tickets to sporting events and concerts in return for advancing the interests of his clients — by inserting projects in appropriations bills, drafting legislation and applying pressure where needed. He is charged with conspiracy, honest services wire fraud and giving illegal gratuities. Of the 20 or so former lobbyists, executive officials and congressional aides tripped up by the Abramoff probe, Ring is only the second defendant to opt for a trial.
The other, David Safavian, the former head of federal procurement policy at the Office of Management and Budget, was found guilty last December of making false statements and obstructing justice. Abramoff is serving a six-year sentence after pleading guilty to bribery and fraud in two separate cases. He has been cooperating with the government in the investigation.
Though Abramoff did not testify, he was never out of mind. ”Kevin Ring learned to lobby from Jack Abramoff,” began Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Leotta in his closing arguments.
Ring, an aide to former Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), followed Abramoff in January 2001 from the firm then known as Preston Gates to Greenberg Traurig, where the lobbyists enjoyed more autonomy. There they had access to an “unlimited expense account” for grooming public officials with “little bribes” and rewarding friends who helped their clients, Leotta said.
“This is about the corruption of our democracy,” Leotta said.
In court filings, the government named Doolittle and his wife, Laura, as unindicted co-conspirators. Prosecutors said Ring worked with Abramoff to get Doolittle’s wife a job, which paid tens of thousands of dollars, in a bid to curry favor with the California Republican. Doolittle, who helped Team Abramoff with numerous projects, once said he felt like a “subsidiary” of Preston Gates. Doolittle declined to seek a 10th term last year.
Miller & Chevalier’s Andrew Wise, who represents Ring, sought to distance his client from Abramoff. He noted wryly that Leotta slipped the imprisoned lobbyist’s name into the first six words of his closing. “Eight if you count ‘Good morning,’” he added.
Wise presented Ring as someone with profound understanding of the political process, a knack for policy and the ability to build lucrative relationships on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.
“His excellence as a lobbyist is something you may not set aside,” Wise said.
Ring was different, Wise said, noting that his colleagues used to rib him for leaving bars earlier than everyone else. ”Don’t go all K. Ring on me,” went the joke.
He never intented to corrupt public officials, Wise said. ”It was his job to influence public officials…he used what were traditional tools, including entertainment, meals, tickets to games,” Wise said.
But a string of convicted lobbyists and a former congressional aide testified that Ring was an integral part of team Abramoff, and prosecutors said he followed its warped code.
“He wants you to believe everybody got it wrong but him,” said Michael Ferrara, a trial lawyer in the Public Integrity Section. ”It doesn’t make sense.”
At trial, the government relied heavily on emails between Ring and his colleagues. A key piece of the government’s case focused on Ring’s relationship with Robert Coughlin II, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison.
Coughlin pleaded guilty in April 2008 to a conflict of interest. He admitted helping Ring secure a $16.3 million grant for a jail for one of Ring’s tribal clients in return for meals and sporting tickets. While Coughlin was not in a position to award the money, he arranged for Ring to meet with high-ranking department officials and provided him with information to bolster Ring’s arguments for funding the grant.
Prosecutors removed Coughlin from their witness list on the eve of trial after he accused the Justice Department of unfairly singling him out for prosecution and denied that he was ever influenced by Ring’s gifts.
The government alleged that David Ayres, chief of staff to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, ultimately made the decision to award the grant, overruling then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General Tracy Henke, who thought the figure too high. Ayres is now CEO of Ashcroft’s consulting firm. Henke is a principal there.
In March 2002, Ring gave Ayres tickets to the NCAA college basketball tournament at the MCI Center. The Justice Department later waived the competitive bidding requirement on the grant, allowing the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to pick its contractor of choice. Ring also supplied Ayres wife, Laura, with basketball tickets in January 2003. She approached Ring, saying they were a birthday gift for her husband, according to court documents.
Ring wanted to put Ayres on the stand to prove he had no intention of influencing Ayres, but the longtime Ashcroft aide and his wife invoked their Fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. The government declined to grant the Ayreses immunity, and Judge Ellen Huvelle, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, denied Ring’s motion to compel it.