- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006

12:15 p.m.

A jury found former Bush administration official David Safavian guilty today of covering up his dealings with Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Safavian was convicted on four of five felony counts of lying and obstruction. He resigned from his White House post last year as the federal government’s chief procurement officer.

The trial consumed eight days of testimony about Safavian’s assistance to Abramoff regarding government-owned real estate and a weeklong golfing excursion the lobbyist organized to the famed St. Andrews golf course in Scotland and London. Safavian went on the trip while he was chief of staff at the General Services Administration (GSA), and other participants were Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, two Ney aides and Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed.

The verdict came on the fifth day of jury deliberations.

Safavian showed no expression when the judge announced the guilty verdicts on each of four counts. Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 12.

Safavian was charged with two counts of obstructing justice during investigations into the Scotland trip by the GSA inspector general and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. He also was charged with three counts of making false statements or concealing information from GSA ethics officials, a GSA inspector general investigator and a Senate investigator.

The jury found Safavian guilty of obstructing the work of the GSA inspector general and of lying to a GSA ethics official. It also convicted him of lying to the GSA’s Office of Inspector General and of making a false statement to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. He was acquitted of a charge of obstructing the committee’s investigation.

This was the first trial to emerge from the scandal surrounding Abramoff, who is a former business partner of Safavians. Abramoff has pleaded guilty to federal crimes here and in Miami.

A key witness in the case was Neil Volz, a convicted partner of Abramoff’s and ex-chief of staff to Mr. Ney. Prosecutors introduced hundreds of e-mails exchanged among Safavian, Abramoff, Volz and others in 2002.

The Justice Department made a case that Safavian had provided Abramoff advice and some inside information about two government properties.

Prosecutors said Abramoff wanted to buy or lease part of the GSA’s White Oak property in the Maryland suburbs for use by a Jewish school he had established. They also said he wanted to give an Indian tribe client a leg up on obtaining the contract to redevelop the Old Post Office in downtown Washington as a luxury hotel, near two restaurants Abramoff owned.

Volz testified that the Abramoff team referred to Safavian as one of their “champions” inside government, who could give them insider information they couldn’t get elsewhere.

Safavian took the stand for two days in his own defense. He acknowledged some misjudgments and forwarding Abramoff some insider information, such as the position of other government officials on the GSA properties, but attributed those errors to his inexperience.

He maintained that he simply gave generally available information to an old friend who was inquiring about government property that the GSA had not even decided what to do with yet.

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