The Justice Department and attorneys for disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff have agreed to postpone for at least three months the day he has to report to federal prison — the latest sign that Abramoff’s continued cooperation with an ongoing corruption probe in Washington, D.C., is proving helpful to prosecutors.
Abramoff had been scheduled to surrender himself to the Bureau of Prisons on June 29 to begin the 70-month prison sentence handed down by Judge Paul Huck of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Abramoff and Adam Kidan, Abramoff’s former business partner in a Florida-based gambling cruise ship company, pleaded guilty in January to mail and wire fraud in that case, and each received the same prison sentence from Huck.
Abramoff and Kidan also were ordered to pay a total of $21.7 million in restitution.
Justice officials and Abramoff’s lawyers filed a joint motion with Huck on Friday night asking for a three-month reprieve for Abramoff, who is cooperating with federal prosecutors in an ongoing probe that has roiled official Washington.
Abramoff also has pleaded guilty in that case and faces as much as 11 years in prison after admitting to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, although he has not been sentenced yet. Abramoff next meets with the judge overseeing the Washington case on Sept. 6. Whatever sentence Abramoff receives in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will be served concurrently with the Florida charges.
It was unclear at press time whether Huck has approved the joint motion, which was filed after the federal court in Miami closed on Friday. Several calls to Huck’s office were not returned.
Several sources close to the case believe Abramoff may not be required to begin his prison sentence in the Florida case until next year, depending on how the Washington corruption probe is progressing.
One lawyer who asked not to be identified said Huck “is not the kind of judge that will allow [Abramoff] to walk around” without an incarceration date, meaning that Huck could end up approving several 90-day extensions before the one-time lobbying superstar enters prison. A three-month extension from his current incarceration date would allow Abramoff to remain free until the end of September on the Florida charges.
Another issue for Abramoff’s attorneys is where he will serve his prison sentence. Abramoff is an Orthodox Jew, and his lawyers have said they will seek to have him incarcerated at a federal facility where he can attend religious services, a source close to the case said.
Abramoff would like to be sent to a prison that would allow him to have some access to his wife and five children.
Three other individuals close to Abramoff have pleaded guilty in the Washington corruption probe, and a fourth’s fate is still being weighed by a federal jury, although none has been sentenced, much less received a date for his incarceration to begin.
Michael Scanlon, a one-time aide to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to bribe public officials and commit mail and wire fraud. Scanlon’s sentencing has been postponed, and he will next appear before a federal judge in September to review the status of his case.
Tony Rudy, another DeLay aide, pleaded guilty in March to federal fraud and lobbying violations charges. His next court date is July 11.
Neil Volz, former chief of staff to Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), admitted in May to conspiracy to commit fraud and violating the one-year ban on lobbying by former top Congressional aides. His next court date is Aug. 10.
David Safavian, a former Bush administration official, is currently on trial in federal court for allegedly lying to federal and Congressional investigators over his relationship with Abramoff. At press time, the jury was deliberating the charges against Safavian. Volz appeared as a prosecution witness during Safavian’s trial.