A prosecutor said Thursday that he will use a lobbyist’s e-mails about behind-the-scenes dealmaking to convict him of corrupting officials in Congress and the Bush administration.
In one e-mail, lobbyist Kevin Ring wrote that “the ethics thing is a real turn off” and that his team preferred working with “amoral pond scum.”
Prosecutor Nathaniel Edmonds told jurors that Mr. Ring showered officials with event tickets, fancy dinners, never-ending drinks and even a $5,000-a-month job for then-California Republican Rep. John Doolittle’s wife to get policies and taxpayer expenditures in favor of his clients instead of for the public good.
The Justice Department is trying for a second time to convict Mr. Ring, a 40-year-old former associate of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The first trial ended a year ago with jurors unable to agree on Mr. Ring’s guilt after defense lawyers argued he was just doing his job by trying to build relationships with policymakers.
Mr. Edmonds addressed that defense before Mr. Ring’s lawyers delivered their opening statement. “There is no lobbyist exception for bribery and corruption,” Mr. Edmonds said.
The second trial is being held in a newer courtroom in federal court in Washington with individual video screens in the jury box that Mr. Edmonds used during open arguments to display Mr. Ring’s written words in large type.
In an e-mail, Mr. Ring wrote that former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s top aide should “pay us back” for owner’s box seats at the 2002 NCAA March Madness tournament.
After Abramoff’s lobbyists got what they wanted from Mr. Ashcroft’s Justice Department a $16.3 million grant for their client the Choctaw Indian tribe Mr. Ring e-mailed his associates to say they should respond by thanking “your friends on the Hill and in the administration.”
“In fact, thank them over and over this week preferably for long periods of time and at expensive establishments,” Mr. Ring wrote in another e-mail Mr. Edmonds showed jurors. “Thank them until it hurts - and until we have a June bill that reflects the fact our client is about to get a $16.3 million check from the Department of Justice!!!”
The prosecutors’ challenge could be even more difficult in this trial because a leading congressional witness has recanted testimony from the first trial that he was corrupted by meals and tickets. And the Supreme Court issued a ruling that weakened the “honest services” law that Mr. Ring has been indicted on to require prosecutors to prove a “quid pro quo” exchange of gifts for official actions.
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