Ring Guilty on Five Counts
By Leah Nylen | November 15, 2021 5:00 pm

Former lobbyist Kevin Ring was found guilty Monday of conspiracy, providing illegal gratuities and honest services wire fraud, a big win for Justice Department in the wake of a Supreme Court case that severely limited how prosecutors can use the honest services fraud statute.

Ring, a former colleague of convicted influence peddler Jack Abramoff, was accused of offering free event tickets and meals to 11 public officials in exchange for earmarks and other “official actions.” His first trial year ago ended in a hung jury.

“For years, this team of lobbyists schemed to corrupt public officials, and, because of their actions, Americans were denied the honest services of public servants,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division said in a statement. “Through the continued vigilance of our prosecutors and our law enforcement partners, we are committed to bringing to justice those who seek to corrupt our democratic process.”

Kevin Ring worked with lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the early 2000s. (Getty Images)

In July, the Supreme Court ruled in Skilling v. United States that prosecutors can only use the honest services law in strict cases of bribery and kickbacks. In the past, prosecutors took a more expansive view of the law, with some alleging they used the statute as a “catch-all” tool to prosecute white collar crime.

With the more restrictive criteria, prosecutors had to prove that Ring and the public officials he interacted with violated their “lawful duty” to the public. At trial, prosecutors argued 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. Ring’s lawyers said he was a skilled lobbyist who used legal — if at times unseemly — methods to advance his clients’ interests.

The jury ultimately agreed with prosecutors, finding that gifts Ring provided to Robert Coughlin, a former Justice Department official; John Albaugh, the former chief of staff to Rep. Ernest Istook, a former senior member of the House Appropriations Committee; and former Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), violated the law. He was acquitted on three other charges.

“There is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it,” said Tom Bandy, one of the jurors, after the verdict was announced.

Even without the Skilling decision, prosecutors faced a series of setbacks in the case. Albaugh 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.

The judge in the case, District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, also chided prosecutors for some of their arguments at trial, at one point telling lead prosecutor Nathaniel Edmonds that he had “crossed the line of professional responsibility” for hinting he had evidence that did not exist.

Andrew Ramonas contributed reporting.

This story has been updated.


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