Disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff is scheduled to be released from a halfway house Dec. 4, but his one-time co-conspirator Michael Scanlon won’t learn his own fate until two weeks later when he is scheduled to face sentencing in federal court.
U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle on Tuesday set a new Dec. 21 sentencing date for Scanlon, a key figure in the influence-peddling investigation centered on Abramoff, as she considers whether to allow him to amend his guilty plea.
A former spokesman for ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Scanlon once ran his own public relations firm and acknowledged he colluded with Abramoff to overbill American Indian tribes for services.
Scanlon pleaded guilty in November 2005 to one count of conspiracy to violate federal laws including bribery, mail or wire fraud, and honest services fraud.
Scanlon, who was not present, has asked to strike a portion of his plea tied to a public corruption statute known as “honest services” law.
Scanlon’s attorneys asserted he should be allowed to drop any references to that statute, following a recent Supreme Court decision that restricted the use of the law to cases that involve a fiduciary relationship — such as a public official and constituent — and excludes the charges to which Scanlon pleaded guilty.
Huvelle must rule on the request before the sentencing hearing.
“There are a lot of ways to look at what happened here,” Huvelle said Tuesday. “It’s not just honest services fraud.”
According to the Justice Department, 19 individuals have pled guilty or been convicted in connection to the Abramoff investigation. In addition, former House aide Fraser Verrusio was indicted on related charges in March 2009, but he is challenging the accusations in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Abramoff, who served three and a half years in prison, is living in a Baltimore halfway house and is scheduled to be released Dec. 4.