Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ex-White House Aide Found Guilty

The Republicans involved in the Abramoff bribery scandal have been turning on each other en masse, becoming cooperating witnesses in the expanding federal prosecutions of their cohorts.

Yesterday, the first defendant who chose to go to trial rather than plead guilty and cooperate with the prosecutors discovered that he made a losing bet.

A federal jury found former White House aide David H. Safavian guilty yesterday of lying and obstructing justice, making him the highest-ranking government official to be convicted in the spreading scandal involving disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Safavian, a former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, was convicted in U.S. District Court here of covering up his many efforts to assist Abramoff in acquiring two properties controlled by the GSA, and also of concealing facts about a lavish weeklong golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland and London in the summer of 2002.

This was the first Abramoff-related legal action to go to trial and face a jury. Several legal experts said the case could embolden federal prosecutors to seek additional indictments against cronies of Abramoff, who has been cooperating with the Justice Department since pleading guilty in January to corrupting public officials...

The jury found him guilty of obstructing an inquiry by the inspector general's office of the GSA and of lying to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, a GSA ethics officer and the GSA inspector general. He was acquitted of obstructing the Senate's probe. He faces up to 20 years in jail and $1 million in fines; sentencing was set for Oct. 12...

Safavian is the fifth person to be found guilty in legal actions connected to Abramoff, the once-powerful Republican lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe government officials. Like Abramoff, the other four negotiated plea agreements and did not go to trial. One of those, Neil G. Volz, a congressional aide-turned-lobbyist, testified against Safavian two weeks ago...

Besides Volz, the Justice Department has gotten guilty pleas from Abramoff associates Michael Scanlon, a public relations executive; Adam Kidan, a partner of Abramoff's in a Florida gambling-boat investment; and lobbyist Tony C. Rudy, once a top aide to former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

Several congressmen (and one prominent former House member) are said to be in the crosshairs of the prosecutors who are unthreading the tangled affairs of Abramoff.

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