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Federal prosecutors are set on seeing Kevin Ring, a former colleague of ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, behind bars for as many as 22 years.
In a filing Thursday, prosecutors maintained that Ring should face 17 to 22 years in prison — which exceeds the combined time served by the 20 other defendants in the Abramoff case — because he “is not entitled to the benefits, or leniency, enjoyed by his co-conspirators who stood in a very different position in 2005 to 2008 than he does in 2011.”
Ring’s lawyers argue that the lengthy sentence is retaliation for his decision to stand trial instead of accepting a plea deal like the other defendants in the Abramoff investigation.
“Such argument is wildly unfounded and without basis in fact of law,” Jack Smith, chief of the Justice Department’s public integrity unit, and Denis J. McInerney, chief of the fraud section, wrote in the filing. “Ring’s claim of ‘retaliation’ for leniency granted to his co-conspirators is inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent and attacks the foundation and spirit of our criminal justice system, and should be soundly rejected.”
Ring, a former aide to ex-Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) who later became a lobbyist, was convicted last fall on five public corruption counts, including conspiracy, payment of a gratuity and honest services wire fraud after a mistrial in 2009. He was indicted in 2008 on 10 charges stemming from the investigation centered on Abramoff, his former boss.
During a Tuesday hearing on Ring’s sentence, the judge noted that the sentence was a big price to pay for refusing to admit guilt and fighting the charges, albeit unsuccessfully, the Associated Press reported.
“That’s a pretty big penalty for exercising a constitutional right,” U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle remarked.
Justice Department attorney Nathaniel Edmonds responded that a stiff sentence would not be a punishment for going to trial. He said cooperating defendants are rewarded with leniency, a distinction repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court and frequently used in prosecutions, according to the AP.
Huvelle is likely to make a final decision on the sentence by the end of October. In the meantime, Ring’s lawyers, a team at Miller & Chevalier, will be pushing for a more friendly sentence. They believe Ring should be treated like the other defendants, many of whom settled for probationary sentences.
Ring’s attorney, Andrew Wise, declined to comment.