Former GOP super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff has just been sentenced to an additional 48 months in prison for conspiring to corrupt public officials and tax evasion. Combined with a prison term Abramoff is already serving for a Florida fraud conviction, the new sentence means he'll be in prison until Sept. 2012, minus time off for good behavior.
Justice Dept. officials, pointing to Abramoff''s extensive cooperation with federal investigators, had urged U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle to sentence Abramoff to an additional 39 months behind bars stemming from a Washington, D.C., corruption case that rocked Congress and the Bush administration. Abramoff's attorneys were seeking even less time than that for the one-time K Street star, but Huvelle rejected those requests.
While acknowledging that Abramoff's assistance had helped unwind a wide-ranging corruption scandal, Huvelle said that his criminal actions "impacted seriously the public's confidence in the government" and must be punished.
Abramoff has already served 22 months of a 70-month sentence he got in the Florida case, but he has a hearing next week that could result in a significant reduction in that sentence.
Huvelle could have sentenced Abramoff to another decade in prison on top of the time he has already served.
Abramoff, in a voice choking with emotion, pleaded with Huvelle to "end this horrible nightmare at some point."
"I come to court today as a broken man," a visibly distraught Abramoff told the court. "I wish with all my heart that I could undo all the things that I did that were wrong."
Abramoff, once known for his expensive suits, lavish expense account and high-level access to GOP congressional leaders and the Bush White House, appeared in court wearing a simple brown t-shirt, grey sweat pants, and a yarmulke.
Abramoff said he was in "an abyss and I don't know how to get out of it."
Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, his former business associate, were accused of bilking Indian tribes out of tens of millions of dollars, using some of those proceeds to lavish gifts, meals, trips and campaign donations on members of Congress, staffers, and executive-branch officials. At this point, 13 people have been indicted or pled guilty in what DOJ officials have described as an ongoing criminal probe.
Scanlon, who was the first to plead guilty in the case, has yet to be sentenced. Greenburg Traurig, Abramoff's former lobbying firm, has paid back all the money that the tribes paid the two men.