Abramoff, the central figure in a corruption scandal that shook up Washington politics and contributed to the Republican loss of Congress in 2004, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday. In a letter to the court Wednesday, he said even he is shocked to look back on what his life had become.
"It is hard to see the exact moment that I went over the line but, looking backwards, it is amazing for me to see how far I strayed and how I did not see it at the time," Abramoff wrote. "So much of what happens in Washington stretches the envelope, skirts the spirit of the rules, and lives in the loopholes. But even by those standards, I blundered farther than even those excesses would allow."
Abramoff is serving a nearly six-year prison sentence for a fraudulent Florida casino deal. He faces up to 11 years in prison when he is sentenced Thursday for corrupting Capitol Hill lawmakers with expensive meals, golf junkets, luxury sports tickets and other gifts.
But prosecutors are asking for a much more lenient sentence of less than four years. Defense attorneys say he deserves even less time. Since pleading guilty in 2006, Abramoff has been the key witness in his own corruption scandal. He has provided the Justice Department evidence that helped send Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles to prison.
Abramoff said his cooperation has been extensive. Not only did he confirm what prosecutors knew, he said he also offered new leads and tips, pointed them in different directions and spent countless hours meeting with investigators. Several Capitol Hill aides and powerful political figures have pleaded guilty because of his cooperation.
"My efforts do not even the balance, but they are a good down payment on what I still must do," Abramoff wrote.
He said he has spent the first two years of his prison sentence reflecting on his actions.
"I see that my crimes all had the same cause - my shortsighted and selfish view that the ends could justify the means," he wrote. "I am not a bad man (although to read all the news articles one would think I am Osama bin Laden), but I did many bad things."
U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle has wide discretion when it comes to handing down a sentence. She has been lenient at times in the case but has shown little patience for defendants who arrive in her courtroom with excuses. Abramoff will get an opportunity to speak in court.