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By using conspiracy statutes against Abramoff and the two ex-DeLay aides, prosecutors have been able to use an umbrella approach to any crime committed by the trio without fear of being curbed by a statute of limitations. If they were to move against any lawmakers, prosecutors could use the same conspiracy charge and go as far back as they want to bring charges, Brand and other lawyers said.
Rudy and Buckham have previously been using the same lawyer, Laura Ariane Miller, who accompanied Rudy to the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse a few blocks from the Capitol Friday. She didn’t return phone calls Friday requesting comment regarding Rudy and Buckham.
In a conference call with reporters, Richard Cullen, DeLay’s lawyer, said that the Texan was “bitterly disappointed” with Rudy’s actions, but added that he had not heard the lawmaker say he felt “betrayed.”
Cullen also put distance between DeLay and Buckham. Asked when the last time DeLay spoke with his former chief of staff and minister, Cullen said, “I would think it’s been some time.”
Cullen said he has voluntarily turned over to federal investigators about 100 e-mails written by DeLay staffers over the years that had to do with Abramoff, adding that his last contact with Mary Butler, the Justice lawyer leading the prosecution, came around Thanksgiving. He said that DeLay has no concerns about the investigation “as long as people are telling the truth.”
“Tom DeLay was [not] aware of the wrongs that Mr. Rudy was committing,” Cullen said.
Ney — whose actions have now been clearly identified in the Scanlon, Abramoff and Rudy pleas — claimed vindication in at least one critical aspect of the allegations against him. His office pointed to portion of the Rudy plea agreement in which Rudy says he invited Ney and his chief of staff, Will Heaton, on May 24, 2002, to a trip to Scotland.
In the Abramoff agreement, Abramoff had said that Ney was the one who requested the Scotland trip, placing a potentially greater criminal liability on Ney’s shoulders, given that Ney was helping the lobbyist’s client, the Tigua tribe of El Paso, Texas, in an effort to reopen their tribal casino. The Abramoff plea also said that the Tiguas were raising money for the Ney trip, which ended up costing more than $161,000, according to documents released by Senate investigators.
Ney has always said he didn’t know who paid for the trip and has said that Abramoff led him to believe it was a nonprofit on which Abramoff served as a board member.
“What this agreement makes clear for the first time is that, contrary to what has been misrepresented by others in the past, Congressman Ney in fact never solicited the trip to Scotland,” said Brian Walsh, Ney’s spokesman.
The Abramoff plea agreement in January also alleged that the bribery portion involving Ney began in 1999 and ran through April 2004. This suggests that any crimes that occurred in 1997 and 1998 did not involve Ney.
However, the most significant piece of Rudy’s plea deal may be its description of how the DeLay legislative and political world operated.