- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2007

1:28 p.m.

Former Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, was sentenced today to 2 1/2 years in federal prison for trading political favors for gifts and campaign donations from lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Ney, the first congressman ensnared in the lobbying scandal, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy and making false statements. He admitted being corrupted by golf trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from Abramoff.

“You violated a host of laws that you as a congressman are sworn to enforce and uphold,” said U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, who recommended that Ney serve his time at a federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va.

Ney also will serve two years probation and must pay a $6,000 fine. Judge Huvelle recommended he enter a prison alcohol rehabilitation program for treatment of a drinking problem he has acknowledged in recent months. Completing the program could knock about a year off his sentence.

Judge Huvelle did not set a date for Ney to report to prison.

The sentence was harsher than recommended by prosecutors or Ney’s lawyers, Judge Huvelle said, because Ney had violated the trust placed in him as a public official. “Both your constituents and the public trusted you to represent them honestly,” she said.

Ney apologized to his family and constituents during a brief speech to the judge.

“I will continue to take full responsibility, accept the consequences and battle the demons of addiction that are within me,” he said.

Earlier, Ney’s defense team filed letters from his doctor and a former staff member who described his drinking problems and how they accelerated when he came under scrutiny in the Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Dr. Renato F. Dela Cruz, the former congressman’s physician, wrote that Ney’s behavior had been influenced by an increase in alcohol consumption that began in 2001. Dr. Cruz said that he urged the lawmaker to cut back but that the recommendation was ignored.

Matthew D. Parker, a former aide and friend, said Ney “was a functioning alcoholic who could rarely make it through the day without drinking and would often begin drinking beers as early as 7:30 a.m.”

Judge Huvelle said Ney’s alcoholism didn’t fully explain his pattern of corruption.

“It wasn’t an isolated aberration. It had a consistency to it. It involved significant and serious abuses of the public’s trust,” Judge Huvelle said.

The six-term lawmaker is still eligible to receive his congressional pension. The National Taxpayers Union, which tracks pensions, said Ney would be eligible for about $29,000 a year if he waits to draw it until 2016, when he turns 62.

Ney’s election-year scandal drew criticism from Republican congressional leaders and the White House. White House spokesman Tony Snow said Ney’s criminal activity “is not a reflection of the Republican Party.”

His is the latest in a string of convictions in a scandal that so far has caught several lobbyists and two members of the Bush administration.

The gifts Ney received ranged from a trip to Scotland bankrolled by Abramoff’s clients to thousands of dollars in gambling chips that Ney got on two overseas junkets from foreign businessman Fouad al-Zayat, a Syrian-born aviation company owner in Cyprus.

Abramoff, once an influential lobbyist, is the star witness in an FBI corruption investigation that has shaken Capitol Hill. He is serving prison time for a fraudulent Florida casino deal.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide