Former Staffers, Lobbyists Likely to Testify in Ring Case

Posted August 13, 2009 at 2:52pm

A multitude of former House and Senate aides are expected to take the witness stand when the trial of former House aide and lobbyist Kevin Ring begins next month.

Federal prosecutors said Thursday that they could call as many as 15 witnesses against Ring, who is charged in the ongoing influence-peddling investigation of disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, including former Hill aides and lobbyists, several of whom have cut plea agreements.

Among those expected to testify are Todd Boulanger, an aide to then-Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) and later one of Abramoff’s deputies who pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to defraud the government; Neil Volz, chief of staff to then-Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) who became a lobbyist and pleaded guilty in 2006 to helping Abramoff bribe Ney; John Albaugh, chief of staff to then-Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), who pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud; and Anne Copland, a former aide to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) who pleaded guilty in March to honest services wire fraud.

In addition, numerous Members could be identified during the trial — including many who are not directly connected to charges in the case, but whose names are raised by the alleged co-conspirators in e-mail exchanges offered as evidence — including notable former lawmakers such as ex-Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

A proposed exhibit list filed with the court also indicates that the wife of ex-Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), Julie Doolittle, has also been named as a co-conspirator in the case. Ring is accused of negotiating with Abramoff to hire the wife of “Representative 5,— who is not identified in the government’s indictment.

The exhibit list includes communications between Julie Doolittle and Abramoff about her employment.

“Though Ring is not on every exhibit regarding the job for Julia Doolittle, he is on several. Those he is not on, such as this exhibit in which Julia Doolittle wrote that she looked forward to working with Abramoff, place Ring’s involvement in procuring the job in context and show the end result, that Abramoff in fact hired Julia Doolittle,— the government wrote in court documents. “Moreover, Ring is responsible for acts of his coconspirators taken in furtherance of the conspiracy. His coconspirators include Abramoff and Julia Doolittle.—

Ring’s attorneys have requested that the exhibits be rejected by the court, asserting they are irrelevant.

“The government has included a collection of documents relating to Julia Doolittle’s job that were not sent by, to, or carbon copied to Mr. Ring. There is no evidence that Mr. Ring had any involvement in the details of her work, or played any role in choosing what work she would do. These documents are not relevant,— the defense team wrote in court documents.

It is not yet known whether Ring, who has denied charges of bribery and conspiracy to commit fraud, will testify in his own defense.

During a pretrial hearing Thursday to discuss the more than 1,200 proposed exhibits, U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle also revealed that Ring had rejected a plea bargain in July.

That offer would have required Ring to plead guilty to corruption charges carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Prosecutors could not provide an immediate estimate of the maximum sentence Ring would face if he is found guilty of the indictment pending against him, but noted that charges of fraud alone could carry a term of up to 20 years.

Ring’s trial is set to begin with jury selection Sept. 8. Huvelle said the pool of 110 potential jurors will be informed that the trial could last between six and seven weeks.