- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2006


A former top aide to Rep. Tom DeLay pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy and promised to cooperate with a federal investigation of bribery and lobbying fraud that has resulted in three convictions.

Tony Rudy, the former House majority leader’s one-time deputy chief of staff, admitted to conspiring with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff both while working for the Texas Republican and after leaving the lawmaker’s staff to become a lobbyist himself.

He faces up to five years in prison, but could receive much less based on the extent of his help with the investigation, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle told Rudy at a court hearing in Washington.

Rudy took payments from Abramoff in 2000, then helped defeat an Internet gambling bill opposed by Abramoff’s clients, according to court papers.

Later, while working as a lobbyist, Rudy also was extensively involved in arranging a golf trip to Scotland for Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney, described as Representative 1, and congressional staffers, the court papers said.

The plea agreement contains no accusations that Mr. DeLay, who it describes as Representative 2, did anything wrong.

Rudy, who resigned as Mr. DeLay’s deputy chief of staff in 2001, is the first person to plead guilty in the case since Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud charges in January. Michael Scanlon, a former DeLay press secretary who later became a lobbying partner with Abramoff, pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to bribe public officials.

As part of the deal, Rudy pleaded guilty to the single conspiracy count and prosecutors agreed not to pursue other potential charges against him or his wife.

“The American public loses when officials and lobbyists conspire to buy and sell influence in such a corrupt and brazen manner. By his admission in open court today, Mr. Rudy paints a picture of Washington which the American public and law enforcement will simply not tolerate,” Alice Fisher, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said yesterday.

Rudy, 39, stood with his head slightly bowed and his hands clasped in front of him as the judge detailed how he took free trips, tickets, meals and golf games from Abramoff while working for Mr. DeLay.

Rudy, a lawyer, answered the judge’s questions in a strong voice but seemed more subdued when Judge Huvelle asked whether he understood that he was pleading guilty to a felony and would lose some rights.

“Yes, your honor,” he said quietly.

His attorney, Laura Ariane Miller, objected when Judge Huvelle described the accusation that he took things “in exchange” for official acts. Instead, Miss Miller said that her client sought and received gifts.

Judge Huvelle said that under the sentencing guidelines, which are not mandatory but often used by judges, Rudy could receive 24 to 30 months in prison because he does not have a criminal record and acknowledged his crime.

The judge said that prosecutors could ask for a shorter sentence, depending on his cooperation. Rudy was allowed to remain free pending the sentencing.

Rudy and his lawyer left the courthouse without talking to reporters.

After leaving Mr. DeLay’s office, Rudy first joined Abramoff’s lobbying team at the Greenberg Traurig law firm. Soon afterward, he signed on with another former DeLay staffer, Ed Buckham, at the Alexander Strategy Group.

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