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In Round 2 of Ring Trial, Judge Has Harsh Words for DOJ
By Leah Nylen | October 18, 2021 4:55 pm

The second trial of Abramoff associate Kevin Ring kicked off Monday morning with jury selection and some harsh language from the judge for prosecutors.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle scolded prosecutors for seeking to change a key argument in the case right before the trial.

Ring, a former lobbyist and colleague of Jack Abramoff, is accused of offering free event tickets and meals to 11 public officials in exchange for earmarks and other “official actions.” His first trial last fall ended in a hung jury.

In a brief filed last week, prosecutors asked the judge to change her jury instructions regarding campaign contributions Ring made to several politicians. In the first trial, Huvelle told jurors that campaign contributions are legal, and they should not consider the fundraising as something meant to induce the officials to act.

Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle

Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle (gov)

But in the brief last week, prosecutors asked the judge to instead tell jurors that contributions can be illegal if given with the explicit promise of an official action.

The move by prosecutors came weeks after a key government witness recanted his earlier testimony.

John Albaugh, who was chief of staff to Rep. Ernest Istook, a former senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, testified in the first trial that he used his position to benefit clients of Abramoff’s firm because lobbyists gave him free meals and event tickets.

In September, Albaugh changed his testimony, telling prosecutors he would not have taken actions of behalf of Ring and Abramoff’s clients if the lobbyists had not given campaign contributions to his boss.

In court Monday, Huvelle suggested prosecutors were taking “a totally different position” because Albaugh had left them “high and dry.”

“It’s a very sad day that the government should be stretching at this time to come up with new arguments,” Huvelle said, according to the Associated Press.

Nathaniel Edmonds, the Justice Department’s lead prosecutor on the case, said the government would seek to prove that Ring and the other lobbyists at his firm had an explicit agreement that they would provide contributions to members of Congress in exchange for official actions.

According to the AP, Huvelle agreed to modify the jury instructions to reflect that campaign contributions can be illegal in instances where there is an explicit quid pro quo. But she said she would not let prosecutors use the new argument because they did not make that case in the first trial.

It would be “totally offensive to any sense of fairness,” she said, according to the AP.

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