Posts Tagged ‘Jack Abramoff’
Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Horace Cooper (Princeton)

A well-known Republican commentator and one-time aide to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count in connection with the Jack Abramoff probe.

Horace Cooper, 44, faced five felony counts, including conspiracy, obstruction and false statements. Federal prosecutors accused him of concealing his receipt of thousands of dollars worth of meals and tickets to sporting events and concerts, courtesy of Abramoff, in filing his financial disclosure forms. In return, the indictment alleged, Cooper used his positions to advance Abramoff’s interests.

On Wednesday, Cooper pleaded guilty to falsifying his disclosure form by failing to report gifts, a charge that carries up to six months in prison. The Abramoff probe has led to the convictions of a former congressman and 17 other lobbyists, administration officials and congressional staffers.

Cooper had faced up to 40 years in prison. But Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who has presided over roughly a dozen Abramoff-related cases, dismissed the false statement charge and pressed prosecutors for more details of their allegations.

According to Cooper’s attorneys, the Justice Department responded by offering to drop the case if Cooper would plead guilty to a single misdemeanor count.

Cooper worked for Armey from 1994 to 2001 and later served as the chief of staff for Voice of America, an executive branch agency, and chief of staff for the Labor Department’s Employment Standards Administration.

Cooper was represented by a team of lawyers from Ropes & Gray LLP, including Ryan Malone, Colleen Conry, Joe Pull, John Carroll, Cassandra Welch, Jason Idilbi and Tony Biagioli.

This case was prosecuted by trial attorneys Armando Bonilla and Marc Levin of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section

The Washington Times’ Ben Conery has more on the case here, and click here for The Associated Press story.

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Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Joshua Berman, a former federal prosecutor and candidate for U.S. Attorney in Detroit, has joined the Washington office of Katten Muchin Rosenman as a partner in the litigation and dispute practice, the firm announced.

Berman, who spent seven years as a prosecutor based in New York and Washington, was most recently head of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s Washington-based litigation practice and co-chairman of its white-collar and government investigations practice.

Since leaving the Justice Department  in 2004, Berman has represented several clients in high-profile corruption matters, including two figures in the sweeping influence-peddling investigation centered on Jack Abramoff and his associates.

One of his clients, Robert Coughlin, a former deputy in the Justice Department’s Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison, was sentenced in November to 30 days in a halfway house for accepting about $5,000 in meals, drinks and tickets from an Abramoff lobbyist.

Another client, Kevin Koonce, a former aide to Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), was cleared of wrongdoing and recently filed a complaint with the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, alleging prosecutorial abuse.

Berman (Cornell, Michigan Law) was a prosecutor in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section from 2002 to 2004. Before moving to Washington, he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York’s Southern District.

Last fall, a Justice Department official told Main Justice that Berman was among the finalists for the nomination to be U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan, but President Barack Obama ultimately nominated then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade for the position. She was confirmed last month.

Katten Muchin Rosenman also welcomed Glen Donath, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the D.C. office’s Fraud and Public Corruption Section. Donath, who also came from Sonnenschein, represented Koonce along with Berman.

Donath (Yale, University of Chicago Law) also has represented health care providers, financial institutions, investment funds, insurance companies and other corporations in complex civil and criminal proceedings.

Also joining Berman and Donath at Katten is Howard Rubin, a health care and appellate specialist. He was previously national chairman of Sonnenschein’s appellate practice.

“We are thrilled to be joining Katten’s vibrant national litigation, health care and white collar and government investigations practices,” Berman said.

Friday, November 20th, 2009

The Justice Department has cleared Kevin Koonce, a former aide to Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), of wrongdoing in the influence-peddling probe focused on Jack Abramoff and his associates.

Koonce’s lawyers, Joshua Berman and Glen Donath of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, said the department contacted him on Thursday, according to The Washington Post. (Berman also represents Robert Coughlin II, who pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge in connection with the probe. His sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday.)

Koonce was under investigation in connection with allegations that he accepted tickets, meals and drinks in return for official actions while he was working as legislative director for Gregg.

The Post and other news outlets reported on the investigation in February, while Gregg was briefly President Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of commerce. Gregg later asked Obama to withdraw his nomination for unrelated reasons.

Koonce was identified as ”Staffer F” in court documents accompanying the plea agreement of Todd Boulanger, who admitted to honest-services violations earlier this year.

The Public Integrity Section was handling the investigation.

Thursday, November 19th, 2009
Although he pled guilty to a felony conflict of interest in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 208 & 216(a)(2), Ex. 1, Coughlin fails fully to acknowledge that he has committed a

serious crime. He does so in five ways


The Justice Department’s Inspector General investigated two DOJ officials in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, but they were never charged, according to court papers filed Wednesday night.

The disclosure came in a government sentencing memorandum for Robert Coughlin II, a former lawyer in the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison and deputy chief of staff in the Criminal Division. Coughlin, the only DOJ official to be charged in the influence-peddling probe, pleaded guilty in April 2008 to a conflict of interest charge. Coughlin is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 24.

The memo does not name the other two DOJ officials, but it notes that the investigations are closed. The sentencing memo seems to put to rest questions about whether any other Justice officials, past or current, could face prosecution in the Abramoff probe.

The memo notes Coughlin’s help to prosecutors in probing other aspects of the case, but points out that he was “minimal assistance” in its investigation of former Abramoff associate Kevin Ring. Still, the Justice Department is crediting him for his earlier help. Coughlin faces up to six months in prison — but that’s unlikely, given his assistance and the treatment received by the majority of the other 17 officials convicted in the probe.

Federal prosecutors had planned to use Coughlin as a witness in the trial of Ring, who gave him more than $4,000 in meals and tickets to concerts and sporting events. Prosecutors say Coughlin helped Ring achieve lobbying victories, giving him inside information and setting up meetings with officials in return for a stream of gifts.

Days before he was to testify, Coughlin told prosecutors during a mock cross-examination that he felt he was unfairly targeted by the Justice Department and that “the things of value Mr. Ring gave him did not influence his official actions,” according to court papers.

Prosecutors dropped Coughlin from the witness list and “had to scramble on the eve of the trial to find other witnesses who could fully and accurately describe Ring’s efforts to corruptly influence and reward DOJ officials,” the memo says. (Ring’s case ended last month in a mistrial. Prosecutors have said they will bring the case again.)

Before Coughlin’s revelation during trial preparation, he had submitted to eight interviews with various agents.

According to prosecutors:

Coughlin was interviewed by DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) agents regarding other DOJ officials. He was also interviewed by an FBI agent regarding the broader Abramoff investigation. And he was interviewed by a DOJ Inspector General agent regarding allegations of politicized hiring at DOJ. The bulk of these interviews required him to travel to Washington, D.C., and to stay overnight. These interviews were of some use in closing the OIG’s investigations of two DOJ officials, and in completing the investigation of allegations of politicized hiring at the DOJ.

During the Ring trial, David Ayres, the chief of staff to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying.

Ring’s lawyers wanted to question Ayres about a $16.3 million grant the Justice Department awarded to one of Ring’s tribal clients in 2002 and college basketball tickets he and his wife received from the lobbyist.

Prosecutors said Ring intended to cultivate Ayres, who is now CEO of Ashcroft’s consulting firm, with the tickets in return for future favors.

The government alleged that in January 2002 Ayres helped Ring secure the grant for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, overruling then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General Tracy Henke, who thought the $16.3 million figure, to be used for a new jail, was too much.

Ring’s defense lawyers said they could show that Ayres did not make the decision to award the grant.

Thursday, November 5th, 2009
Juror 1
Each count without a unanmous deicision, then we tried to do what we thought was the easiest one, which was the last count.
If you can decide that there’s evidence for one piece then everything else falls into place. And all the way through we though each of the charges and each of the counts.
we could never get through the whole thing unanimously.
very first 5,6 and 1 (undecided) on count eight. could have been — really close.
The rest were 8 convict and 4…
All the others were pretty much split four and eight.
tentative verdict — the first we looked at as we talked more and we better understood our own thoughts some people just changed their minds on how they voted.
We became more educated on what we were talking about.
I voted not guilty on all counts.
This was really an intelligent group to work with. We ended being a hung jury because we had irreconcilabel differences but everybody was repsectfull. we had an outstanding foreman.
and taking it to a postice
everything that required for us to judge what he was thinking — we had to determine that he had a corrupt intention — everything that required us to dtermine his state of mind — that was a common elemenat through all the charges — is where we got hung up.
That in my mind is almost an impossible task.
He could have had a lot of intentions and those emails werent enough to spell them out. he could have just been plying them with everything he needed to continiues his access and influence as lobbyists do.
real ignorant on lobbying thing — I really wasnt able to repjudge I was just like a sponge.
And even when the trial and closing arguments were over I didnt know how it was decided until we actually had a conversation and looked at the accounts.
if the porsection could have dsicinated betwen lobbying and corrupt lobbying — then they would have made their case.
Not just to maintain campaign contribution — even though they had a mountain of evidence it wasnt helpful in showing us what kevin ring ewas thinking.
just because someone felt they were corrupted deosnt mean he had intent to ccorrupt them.
I think the defense was smart. The more that the defedant that the defednat had said on hs own behalf would have been rope to choke himself with -
I think it was a powerful way to defend him.
I’m reited from the Air Force, 50,
Juror 1…
Kevin Ring (Getty Images)

Kevin Ring (Getty Images)

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.


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.


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.

Monday, October 19th, 2009
Tim Griffin (Facebook)

'80s Tim Griffin on Facebook

As he mounts a bid for Congress from Arkansas, Tim Griffin (R) is drawing campaign donations from his former colleagues in the Bush administration.

A one-time aide to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Griffin served as interim U.S. Attorney in Little Rock after Bud Cummins was fired in the 2006 U.S. Attorneys scandal. Now he’s running for the Republican nomination to challenge Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.).

“I’m not going to distance myself from anything I’ve done. I’m very proud of my service,” Griffin said in an interview. “I’m just gonna put Tim Griffin out there.”

His third quarter Federal Election Commission report released last week showed A-list donors from the Republican establishment, including  Alex Castellanos, a top media adviser to Bush’s 2004 campaign; Mary Matalin, a Republican strategist who worked on President George H.W. Bush’s 1992 campaign and later for Vice President Dick Cheney; Mark McKinnon, a policy adviser and media consultant to Bush; and Travis Thomas, the national finance director of Bush’s 2004 campaign.

In addition, a sizable chuck of Griffin’s donations comes from the oil industry.

Griffin, meanwhile, has embraced new media in his campaign. He’s started Facebook and Twitter pages, and has also signed up with iContribute, a Web site that collects donations through the Internet. While Griffin’s Republican primary opponents are also Twittering, Griffin has out-raised them. He collected $130,000 in donations since announcing his candidacy Sept. 21, the report said. Griffin’s campaign spent $1,600 and had $129,000 cash on hand, according to the report. Twelve percent of his donations — or $15,800 —  came from oil producers.

Neither of Griffin’s GOP primary challengers — David Meeks and Scott Wallace — have filed a quarterly report. Meeks said his campaign was unable to file electronically due to “technical problems,” but said he raised $5,100 this quarter. Wallace launched his campaign after the end of the quarter. “I take my primary opponents very seriously,” Griffin told us. “I expect to have a vigorous primary.”

As for the incumbent, Snyder reported raising no money in the third quarter of this year. But he spent $4,700 and had $7,600 cash on hand. Said Griffin: ”It’s always an uphill battle against an incumbent. Congressman Snyder has been challenged a number of times and has won numerous times.” When asked if any Bush administration officials will be campaigning for him, Griffin said he will be making event and policy announcements in coming months.

Among Griffin’s donors are:

  • Bob Brooks, Vice President of the Alpine Group who was a lawyer for the Republican National Committee in 2000 and who in 2003 went on a golfing trip to St. Andrews in Scotland with Jack Abramoff - $2,400 
  • Joel Starr, a State Department attorney who was a speechwriter on President George H.W. Bush’s 1992 campaign — $4,800
  • Alex Castellanos, a Republican media strategist, a top media adviser to Bush’s 2004 campaign and a partner at National Media, Inc. — $1,000
  • Keith Crass, a Republican candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives — $500
  • Ray C. Dillon, president, CEO and director of Deltic Timber Corporation — $1,000
  • James Dyke, a communications adviser to Bush and a former RNC communications director — $250
  • Kelly Eichler, an attorney who worked in then-Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) administration — $250
  • Adrian Gray, the National Voter Contact Director for Bush’s 2004 campaign — $500
  • William Asa Hutchinson III,  an associate solicitor in the Patent and Trademark Office and an attorney for the Commerce Department during the Bush administration. He is the son of Asa Hutchinson, a former House member from northwest Arkansas who served at the Department of Homeland Security in the Bush administration. Asa Hutchinson is also a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas — $500
  • David Kustoff, a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee who was appointed by Bush — $1,000
  • Mary Matalin, Republican strategist  - $250
  • Mark McKinnon, media consultant to Bush and Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign — $250
  • William C. Nolan, chairman of the board of Murphy Oil Corporation — $2,400
  • Mark Rayder, a Republican lobbyist and senior policy adviser at Alston & Bird - $500
  • Matthew Rhoades, the research director for Bush’s 2004 campaign and is a former research director/deputy communications director to the RNC — $1,000
  • Robin Roberts, president of National Media, Inc. and the media buyer for Bush’s 2000 campaign — $1,000
  • Natalie Rule, former director of public affairs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency under Bush, deputy communications director at the 2004 Republican National Convention and the spokeswoman for Bush’s inaugural committee in 2001 — $250.
  • Travis Thomas, the national finance director of Bush’s 2004 campaign — $250
  • Michael Zito, a former trial attorney at the Federal Trade Commission — $250
Monday, October 19th, 2009

A federal judge has scheduled a retrial for Jun. 21 in the case of Kevin Ring, a former associate of imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Kevin Ring (Getty Images)

Kevin Ring (Getty Images)

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.

Friday, October 16th, 2009

TPM Muckraker’s Zachary Roth looks at what went wrong in the government’s public corruption case against former lobbyist Kevin Ring, who was an associate of the now-imprisoned Jack Abramoff. The judge declared a mistrial Thursday after the jury deadlocked.

Prosecutors said ex-lobbyist Kevin Ring corrupted Justice Department and other public officials with gifts. (Getty)

Kevin Ring (Getty Images)

The bottom line: Ring wasn’t a public official. And so the government had a hard time showing he did anything that was illegal at the time, TPM concludes.

Ring, a former lobbyist at Greenberg Traurig, was accused of showering officials at the Justice Department and in Congress with restaurant meals and event tickets, allegedly so they’d be kindly disposed to help Ring’s lobbying clients. That got Ring charged with honest services fraud. 

But former Justice Department prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg told TPM that it’s one thing to convince a jury that government officials broke the law by taking gifts. It’s another, more difficult argument to make that a lobbyist broke the law by offering gifts.

Zeidenberg said:

“If you’ve got a public official who’s elected by the people, and he’s stuffing his face at the trough, it’s more viscerally offensive to a jury…than when you’ve got a lobbyist …  What do you think lobbyists do?”

Congress later tightened gift and ethics laws in response to the Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Washington lawyer Stan Brand, who represents defendants in ethics and public corruption probes, told TPM that some of the 17 lobbyists, Hill staffers, and government officials who pleaded guilty in the Abramoff probe must now be wondering if they should have gone to trial.

“It could certainly make some of these defendants think, maybe they should have pushed harder,” Brand told TPM.

Brand also called the Ring mistrial another “setback” for the Public Integrity Section. The chief of the section and other lawyers there are under criminal contempt investigation by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan for their handling of evidence in the Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) case, which was later dismissed.

Prosecutors have said they intend to try Ring a second time.

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Former Bush administration official David Safavian was sentenced on Friday to a year in prison for lying to authorities about his relationship with Jack Abramoff. Read the Justice Department news release here.

David Safavian, who was chief of staff at the General Services Administration, was found guilty in 2006  of obstructing justice and making false statements. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. After a retrial, he was convicted in December 2008 on the same charges.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he weighed the need for deterrence against the suffering Safavian’s family had endured in four years of proceeding.

The judge showed some leniency — the government had asked for a sentence of 15 to 21 months — but said Safavian should have known better, National Journal reported.

“Nobody expects you to ever commit another crime,” Friedman said. But “sometime in those two or three years” when Safavian was being investigated for his connections to Abramoff, “a light bulb should have gone off.”

(Click here for The Associated Press story and here for National Journal’s coverage of the hearing.)

Safavian passed Abramoff information about two pieces of government-controlled property the lobbyist sought, and Safavian attended a golfing trip to Scotland largely paid for by Abramoff. The junket came to symbolize the excesses and corrupt dealings of Abramoff and several of his associates.

Safavian was the first defendant in the Abramoff probe to opt for trial. On Thursday, a judge declared a mistrial in the case of ex-Abramoff associate Kevin Ring. Prosecutors said they will try the case again.

Safavian’s case was prosecuted by senior litigation counsel Nathaniel Edmonds and trial attorney Albert Stieglitz Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and trial attorney Justin Shur of the Public Integrity Section. Edmonds was also a prosecutor on the Ring case.

Thursday, October 15th, 2009
Kevin Ring (Getty Images)

Kevin Ring (Getty Images)

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.