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Rep. Bob Ney Agrees To Plead Guilty

Rep. Bob Ney has abandoned months of defiant denials and agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges in the congressional corruption probe spawned by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Ney, R-Ohio, will plead guilty to two counts: conspiracy and making false statements. Each charge carries a five-year mandatory penalty, but if Ney goes along with all requirements of the plea, the government has agreed to recommend to the court a sentence of 27 months, reports CBS News' Beverley Lumpkin.

Ney became the first lawmaker to admit wrongdoing in the election-year investigation.

Ney signed the plea agreement Wednesday, but it was not approved by the Justice Department or filed with the U.S. court until Friday. He will appear in court to plead guilty on Friday, Oct. 13.

Ney acknowledged accepting all-expense-paid and reduced-price trips to play golf in Scotland in August 2002, to gamble and vacation in New Orleans in May 2003 and to vacation in New York in August 2003. The total cost of all the trips exceeded $170,000, prosecutors said. Ney also admitted accepting meals and sports and concert tickets for himself and his staff.

The Plea Agreement
Statement Of Facts
Ney's Lawyer's Statement on Plea
In exchange for the improper gifts, Ney offered legislation on three occasions in 2002 to benefit Abramoff's lobbying clients and helped another client win a multimillion-dollar government contract for wireless communications, court papers said.

The New York Times also reported Friday that Ney had recently entered an in-patient rehabilitation center for treatment of alcoholism. His rehab was not a condition of the plea, Justice Department officials said Friday, and his attorneys will address any issues concerning his rehab both in public and at the time of sentencing.

In a statement, Ney apologized for his actions and said he recently realized "a dependence on alcohol has been a problem for me."

"I have made serious mistakes and am sorry for them. I am very sorry for the pain I have caused to my family, my constituents in Ohio and my colleagues," he said.

"I am not making any excuses, and I take full responsibility for my actions. Over the years, I have worked to help others, but now I am the one that needs help," Ney's statement said. "I am seeking professional help for this problem I am hopeful that with counseling, time and the support of my family and friends, I will be able to deal with my dependency."

Ney is a former chairman of the House of Representatives' Administration Committee. In that position, he took a leading role in renaming french fries as "freedom fries" in House cafeterias, in protest of French opposition to the Iraq war.

Ney consistently denied any wrongdoing in the investigation, an insistence that he maintained even after his former chief of staff pleaded guilty in May. The aide, Neil Volz, confessed to conspiring to corrupt the congressman and others with trips and other aid. Volz became a business partner of Abramoff after leaving the congressional payroll.

The guilty plea almost certainly will renew Democratic charges of a Republican "culture of corruption" in the House.

House Majority Leader John Boehner said Friday that that he supports Ney in "recognizing that he needs help with his problem with alcohol," but acknowledged that Ney's "actions violated the law, and he must be held accountable."

In addition to Abramoff and Volz, the scandal has produced guilty pleas by two former congressional aides to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The Texas congressman resigned his seat earlier in the year. He has not been charged in the federal investigation, but is under indictment on state charges in Texas in a different case. He has denied all wrongdoing.

Ney announced last month that he would not seek re-election. Republican voters in Ney's district selected a replacement candidate Thursday as word of the legal developments surfaced. State Sen. Joy Padgett, backed by party leaders, won easily and will face Democrat Zack Space in the fall.