Abramoff Sentencing

September 4, 2008

Today Jack Abramoff appeared in District Court in Washington, DC before Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle to be sentenced for fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials. A few minutes ago he was sentenced to serve four more years in prison. The Associated Press reported:

Abramoff apologized to the court and said he was a changed man.

"I come before you as a broken man," Abramoff said. "I'm not the same man who happily and arrogantly engaged in a lifestyle of political and business corruption."
Bloomberg quoted the judge:
"The true victims here are the public,'' U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle said in Washington today in pronouncing the sentence. "These activities corrupted the political process and deprived the public of honest services."
Huvelle said she took into account what prosecutors called Abramoff's "extraordinary cooperation'' in convicting nine other defendants following his guilty plea in January 2006. Prosecutors, who recommended a sentence of three years and three months, said their investigation is continuing.

The sentence is to run at the same time as a prison term Abramoff is serving in a separate fraud case in Florida, Huvelle said.
I have mixed feelings about Abramoff's sentencing. I am disgusted with his lobbying work on behalf of the CNMI government. It perpetuated the suffering of hundreds of foreign contract workers by preventing the passage of federalization laws that could have spared them the indignity and injustice of being victims of illegal recruiters, being cheated, scammed, and otherwise abused. Abramoff's work on behalf of the CNMI painted an untrue and distorted picture of the situation in the CNMI. The lobbying efforts in the Philippines included meeting with Philippine officials to conduct a libelous campaign against my human rights work, and successful efforts to promote their flawed labor and immigration system.

A few years ago when my friend, Dennis handed me copies of the billing records that the CNMI received from Abramoff's lobbying firms, I was shocked to see my name among the pages. I was disgusted to see that the CNMI was billed over 140 hours to "prove" that the story about me and the victims of labor abuse in the Reader's Digest was false. (It was true.) I was disgusted to learn that the CNMI government spent an estimated $11 million dollars on a lobbying campaign of deceit and cover ups. The wasted funds that the CNMI spent on lobbying firms could have gone to building a power plant, funding the Public School System, Northern Marianas College, and the Commonwealth Health Center. All of the young women and minors who were trafficked into the CNMI illegally and coerced into prostitution or forced to perform sex acts on stage could have been spared -hundreds of them.

The efforts of Abramoff, his co-conspirators from right wing think tanks, foot soldiers from the US Congress, CNMI government officials, and wealthy business owners to successfully block federal reform legislation hurt many innocent people. The junkets, bribes, and deals were conducted on the backs of innocent workers. If the Akaka-Murkowski CNMI reform legislation had passed in the U.S. House after it was passed unanimously in the Senate in 2000, the CNMI would be a different place today. Abramoff, Tom Delay, Bob Schaffer, Don Young and others successfully blocked it in the House.

As much as I detest the irreversible damage of the lobbying deal between Abramoff and the CNMI, I believe Jack Abramoff is sincerely sorry for his crimes and takes responsibility for what he has done. I know this because I wrote to him last year, and he replied to me last summer after the death of his mother. I believe that his two-page typed letter to me was sincere.

Today the letter Jack Abramoff wrote to the judge was released. He wrote:

I have a lot to make up for and a lot of amends to make. If I can earn more than a mere living again, I will be paying back those I harmed for the rest of my life. However, little is accomplished by delaying that day by my being jailed longer than is necessary.

Jack Abramoff's actions hurt many people. He has spent two years in jail talking for over 3,000 hours to over 100 law enforcement officials and attorney to reveal information on others who violated the law. Hopefully, more convictions are coming as his attorneys have predicted. Hopefully, justice will be served, and some officials and others in the CNMI will join Mr. Abramoff behind bars.

Mr. Abramoff wrote in his letter to the judge:

My wrong doings may have been worse than those who have come before you as result of my efforts to help the government. I hope that my acts of contrition and efforts to make amend have been greater as well. I did not delay in coming forward to admit my offenses; I did not wait for any deal before I started providing the government with information of what I and others had done; I did not hesitate to go beyond that which the government knew to give them leads they never had; I did not hesitate to spend all of my time with governments agents and attorneys when i might have spent those precious days before I went to jail with my family; and, I did not stop cooperating every moment I could even in jail when that has been far from a comfortable thing to do in this circumstance and that population.

My efforts do not even the balance, but they are a good down-payment on what I still must do. I hope you can see from the entire record what my misconduct has been, rather than what it has been blown up to be, but I especially hope you can see all the things I have done in my life and those things I have tried to do over the past three years to say "I am sorry."

The Associated Press reported:
Abramoff, who declared himself a broken man, appeared crestfallen as the judge handed down a sentence longer than even prosecutors had sought.

Still, Abramoff received a dramatic reduction in his sentence. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle could have sent him to prison for 11 years but she credited Abramoff with becoming the key FBI witness in his own corruption scandal. With his help, the Justice Department has convicted a congressman and several Capitol Hill aides and Bush administration figures.
Some people celebrate when a person is sentenced to prison. I do not think Abramoff's sentencing is a cause for celebration. I think today is a sad day. It is a sad day for Mr. Abramoff and his family, and a reminder that the suffering of hundreds of innocent guest workers could have been prevented. Greed has terrible consequences.

Read more. Dengre's post on the Daily Kos, Abramoff gets 4 years. McCain should not


Ben Wright said...

E-mail records were central to the investigation of Jack Abramoff. Electronic records are profoundly changing our society. They combat all manner of corruption and abuse of authority or privilege. --Ben http://hack-igations.blogspot.com/2007/12/people-in-authority-sometimes-abuse.html

Anonymous said...

Only four years! I thought it would be more than that. When he gets out of jail, he will have the time to spend all the monies that he acquired. Good way of investing the money. Free food & housing for four years and a little bit of hard work then after four years, you can still enjoy what you have kept. Hmm, let me think a similar scheme....

wendy said...

Thanks for your comment, Ben. I read many pieces of email correspondence between Abramoff, his team, and the CNMI officials. We are waiting to see if the DOJ indicts some officials and others in the CNMI. Abramoff is still talking.

I like the site you mentioned.

Wendy said...

anonymous said...
Only four years! I thought it would be more than that. When he gets out of jail, he will have the time to spend all the monies that he acquired. Good way of investing the money. Free food & housing for four years and a little bit of hard work then after four years, you can still enjoy what you have kept. Hmm, let me think a similar scheme...

I thought he may get more years too. I heard he is broke, and when he gets out of jail he will have to work until he dies to pay the fines. When I said I had mixed feelings, I meant part of me hoped he would get the harshest sentence and part of me thought of his family. I am sure his sentence was reduced because his work in talking to feds got more convictions and from what his attorneys said, there are even more to come as a result of his cooperation.

I hope he keeps talking and exposes the schemes and corruption with CNMI government officials. Anyone can figure it out by reading the billing records and their emails. I could. Hopefully, the DOJ will get moving.

Too many people were hurt by his schemes -Indian tribes, foreign contract workers, advocates, tax payers, innocent DOI officials, members of Congress, and other government employees. Some even lost their jobs because of his lies and schemes in trying to promote the CNMI as an "economic miracle" while denying any suffering of the workers. He even had creepy Dana Rohrabacher write a letter to the Washington Times trashing me. He was responsible for sick "Dear Colleague" letters that supported the CNMI and minimized the problems. He had Ralph Hall make a speech from the House Floor attacking a 14 year old girl who was trafficked and forced into prostitution. He was the brain behind the Schaffer-led hearings to bring down DOI, to get unethical Mark Zachares a job, and the ridiculous junkets to the CNMI. He did not do this alone -he was hired to do the work he did on behalf of the CNMI gvt, and they praised him for it then, and they still do now. Fitial wrote a letter on his behalf! Look at all the officials from the CNMI that went to Washington to be led around by the A-team to Congressional offices, to hob nob with Bush and others. Some even made a side trip to an Indian Reservation in Mississippi. Fital was really tangled in the Abramoff schemes. What other potential candidate for governor ever got half a dozen endorsements and full page ads from US members of Congress published in their hometown papers? Keep talking Jack...

While it seems he acknowledges he was wrong, there is also news that he has been working with a writer from Boston on a new book. It blames the Washington Post and others for his fate. That suggests he may not be totally sincere. Maybe four more years will make him think more about all of the people he hurt. Four more years to talk and help nail others too.