- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was released from federal prison Tuesday and was reportedly taken to a halfway house, where he will serve the remaining six months of his sentence.

Abramoff, 51, has been serving a four-year sentence for defrauding clients and partners with expensive dinners, lavish trips, sporting-event tickets and campaign contributions in exchange for certain official acts.

He pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud, admitting to U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle that he had taken part in a scheme involving the “corruption of public officials.”

The National Journal, citing two anonymous sources, said Mr. Abramoff will serve the remainder of his sentence in a halfway house in the Baltimore area.

U.S. Bureau of Prison spokesman Edmond Ross would not confirm the details of that report, but did say Abramoff was taken from the federal prison in Columbia, Md., and was “in transit” Tuesday. Mr. Ross added that federal prisoners typically serve the final portions of their sentences in halfway houses.

Abramoff’s sentence is scheduled to end Dec.4.

At the time of his sentencing, Abramoff told Judge Huvelle that he was a “broken man.”

“I am not the same man who happily and arrogantly engaged in a lifestyle of political corruption and business corruption,” Abramoff said during a 2008 sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. “I’ve fallen into an abyss, your honor. I don’t know quite how to get out.”

His high-profile case became emblematic of a so-called “culture of corruption” among Republicans in Washington politics and played no small part in Democrats winning control of Congress in 2006.

Federal sentencing guidelines had called for Abramoff to receive more than a decade in prison, but prosecutors and defense attorneys said his cooperation with investigators deserved serious consideration.

As part of a plea bargain, Abramoff agreed to pay at least $25 million in restitution — which the government described as the profits he concealed as part of the conspiracy.

Defense attorney Abbe D. Lowell said during Abramoff’s sentencing hearing that his client’s cooperation spanned thousands of hours and led to guilty pleas from politicians and power brokers, including former Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican.

Mr. Lowell predicted his client’s help will play a large role in future prosecutions and convictions. In all, 19 people have been convicted in connection with the Abramoff affair.

The government says the investigation continues, but prosecutors have stumbled in recent cases. First, a mistrial was declared last year after a jury couldn’t reach a verdict in the case of former Abramoff associate Kevin Ring. A new trial is scheduled to begin next month.

And in April, a well-known conservative commentator and former high-level Labor Department political appointee pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count after the government’s case against him began to unravel.

Horace M. Cooper, 44, had faced multiple felony charges that could have put him in prison for 40 years. But now he is unlikely to spend a day behind bars. Mr. Cooper’s guilty plea was to a single count of failing to include on financial-disclosure forms sporting-event tickets he received in 2003 from Abramoff and Neil G. Volz, another lobbyist.

At the time, Mr. Cooper worked as chief of staff for the Labor Department’s Employment Standards Administration, and Abramoff and Mr. Volz were doing business with the department.

The prosecution’s case against Mr. Cooper became uncertain last month after Judge Huvelle dismissed a false-statement charge and called elements of the case “troubling.” She ordered prosecutors to produce greater detail about the allegations against Mr. Cooper, including what exactly he took from Abramoff and what Mr. Cooper was expected to provide in return.

In response, Mr. Cooper’s attorneys said, the government offered to drop the case if Mr. Cooper would plead guilty to a single misdemeanor count.

According to court documents, Abramoff and partner Michael Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, conspired to defraud Indian tribes in six states of millions of dollars.

Scanlon, who also has been cooperating in the government’s investigation, pleaded guilty in 2005 and is scheduled to be sentenced in August.

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