Jack Abramoff is the symbol of corrupt Washington lobbyists and a punch line for late night talk-show hosts, but his attorneys say he is better described as a devoutly religious and generous family man whose contrition and cooperation warrant mercy.
In court documents filed Wednesday night, Abramoff’s attorneys argued their client deserves even less prison time than the already significantly reduced term that prosecutors have proposed.
Abramoff faces more than a decade in prison under federal guidelines when U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle sentences him Thursday.
In its filing, the Justice Department asked that Abramoff receive five years and four months in prison because of his significant cooperation in a federal investigation that led to guilty pleas from 12 people, including former Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican.
Abramoff has been in prison since November 2006. He is serving a nearly six-year prison sentence stemming from the fraudulent purchase of a casino cruise ship in Florida. That sentence was imposed before Abramoff’s full cooperation and prosecutors. The Justice Department now is asking for that sentence to be reduced to fewer than four years.
If Justice Department recommendations are adopted in both cases, Abramoff could be released in 2011; defense recommendations could have him home as early as next year.
The sentence to be imposed Thursday is for fraud and tax evasion, which stemmed from Abramoff showering public officials with expensive dinners, tickets and campaign contributions.
Defense attorneys now say the man who spent more than a $1 million a year on luxury suites at sports stadiums is essentially broke.
“Ironically for a man who has been called ‘greedy’ in the press, he finds that he and his family are now virtually without any remaining financial resources to live their lives,” said a sentencing memorandum from attorneys Abbe D. Lowell, Christopher D. Man and Pamela J. Marple. “The debt that he has incurred, even beyond any obligation for restitution, will mean that he will struggle to make a living the remaining days of his life.”
Before his legal woes, Abramoff’s attorneys said, he donated about half of his money to various causes, such as schools for Jewish children, providing scholarships for underprivileged children and “engaging in often anonymous acts of kindness directed at those around him.”
His attorneys said Abramoff’s incarceration and notoriety have taken a toll on his five children, who are between the ages of 15 and 20. “Cruel people mocked the children and the family,” the attorneys wrote.
“He is keenly aware that he has created pain, and caused shame, and he is tormented by that,” Abramoff’s wife Pam wrote in a letter to the judge. “There is not a day that goes by that Jack does not express remorse for his past actions.”
But Abramoff’s cooperation is the most important factor the judge will consider in deciding whether to impose a reduced sentence.
For their part, prosecutors consider his help worthy of a lesser sentence.
“By any measure, his cooperation has been both significant and useful,” they wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Abramoff’s attorneys said his cooperation essentially has become a full-time job. They said his cooperation has spanned 3,000 hours and included interviews with more than 100 government officials and the review of more than a half-million documents.
Abramoff’s cooperation continues and his lawyers predict his help will figure into future convictions.