Mark Zachares was sentenced today in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to 12 weekends in jail, four years probation, 200 hours community service and a $4,000 fine.
Prosecutors requested a light sentence due to his cooperation in other Abramoff-connected investigations. Twelve weekends in jail seems far too light. Twelve months may have been a fairer sentence, considering his acts were not victimless.
With his mother and wife looking on in the courtroom and his lawyer Edward MacMahon by his side, a tearful Zachares told the judge that he embraced the worst of the capital's culture when he moved to Washington. That included alcohol abuse, other substance abuse, and paying little attention to his wife and daughters.Zachares worked in the CNMI from 1994 until January 2002, first as an attorney in the Office of the Attorney General and then as Secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration (DOLI). His connections with Abramoff go back to the time he was DOLI Secretary.
He said had no one to blame for himself for being swayed by Abramoff's influence, adding that his moral compass was "non-existent." Not a day has gone by that he doesn't anguish over his decision, Zachares said.
"The person who stands before you today is not that same person," he told the judge.
His lawyer said that Zachares didn't have the means to continue to fight the case, including possibly seeking its dismissal in light of the recent decisions in the honest services cases. He is not upset that he was sentenced even as other more powerful people were not charged in the case, or their cases fell apart in the wake of the Skilling decision.
"Mark genuinely has come to grips with taking responsibility for what he did himself," MacMahon said.
Some say his Alaskan ties to CNMI Department of Labor's hearing officer, Herb Soll landed him the position in the CNMI, as both Soll and Zachares came from Alaska to the CNMI. Soll worked in the Office of the Attorney General at the time Zachares was hired. In 2000, Soll was appointed Attorney General by Governor Pedro Tenorio after the Maya Kara appointment as acting attorney general was ruled unconstitutional since she served in that position for more than 30 days.
At 902 talks in January 1999 Zachares repeated the Abramoff-CNMI mantra that "there has been reform, the abuses are old news, and there is no need for a federal takeover." Edward Cohen proposed having employers pay their workers through a third party straight into the workers' bank accounts. Zachares rejected that idea. Perhaps if it had been approved there would not be $6.1 million in unpaid wages and other monetary judgments. Like all Abramoff soldiers, Zachares was a truth bender and defended the CNMI's agenda to maintain local control of labor and immigration, no matter who would be hurt in the process.
Zachares testified at the September 1999 House Hearing defending the CNMI's labor policies. It was the Abramoff-run hearing with Abramoff foot soldiers Rep. Don Young (R-ALASKA), former Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), and former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) controlling the direction and flow of the hearing that was referred to as a sham. Correspondence from Abramoff to Fitial, Willie Tan and Eloy Inos that preceded the hearing indicated it would be held for the purpose of vilifying federal officials, and to push the agenda of Abramoff's client, the CNMI. Zachares was obviously part of the scheme judging by the transcript of the hearing. Rep. Schaffer addressed him as "Mark."
From: Mark Zachares (mailto:41MMWMWA
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2002 5:59 AM
Subject: Re: Zack
Jack: I was told today that the people who applied for the Ombuds job were told by Interior that the position would not be filled. Interesting? The woman I thought got it is hired, is now doing legal research for Interior out here. So right now, the CNMI has no Ombuds and there are just case/workers, former hacks of Pam Brown, finishing up their contracts. I just thought that this tidbit would be of interest to you. I saw Richard Pierce today and he was heading out to play golf with Diego, Pete A., and of course James Lin. He's such a whore. Hope to see you, Jordan, and the Caps soon, in that order of course. Take care. zack
2/9/01 2.0 hours Kevin Ring Continue drafting outline for J. Abramoff remarks to CNMI leaders; phone conversation with D. Stephens regarding Zachares candidacy
2/13/01 4.0 hours Tony Rudy Contact numerous congressional offices to help Mark Zachares; deliver materials to Hill; obtain signatures on letters
The initial position that Abramoff and his team hoped to place Zachares was in the DOI Office of Insular Affairs where Zachares could manipulate policy to be favorable to the CNMI as this email from Kevin Ring to Abramoff indicates. Even though the attempts to land him that Insular Affairs position went as high as the White House, as correspondence between Abramoff and White House personnel indicated, he did not get the position.
Abramoff, who had hired Reed in 1999 and 2000 to run anti-gambling drives in Alabama to fend off threats to the Choctaws' casino profits, was looking for more help. This time, Abramoff was trying to secure a job at Interior for Mark Zachares, a former secretary of labor in the Marianas government.
On January 11, 2001, Abramoff e-mailed Reed. "I was thinking about this appointment" to the Office of Insular Affairs at Interior, Abramoff wrote. "I know it is perhaps a bizarre request, but considering how quickly I was named to the transition advisory team thanks to your request, perhaps it would be possible to ask Karl [Rove, the president's chief political adviser]... that they should appoint Mark Zachares to head the Office of Insular Affairs.... Do you think we could get this favor from Karl? It would be my big ask for sure."
Reed replied quickly: "It never hurts to ask. What's the next move?" Later that day, Reed sounded even more eager. "Just let me know who to call, when to call, and what to say. And while you're at it get me another client! NOW!"
On March 6, Abramoff met with Rove for about half an hour and pushed for Zachares, according to Abramoff's former lobbying colleagues at the firm Greenberg Traurig and to Secret Service logs released earlier this year. But Rove didn't come through, and Zachares didn't get the job.
One former Abramoff colleague said he wasn't surprised that the effort failed, because Zachares was "too radioactive" and had "the worst possible profile" for the job. Zachares had received $10,000 from an Abramoff-run charity, getting half of the money before he held his Marianas job and half after. What's more, Democrats in Congress, with help from some GOP members, had mounted a bruising but unsuccessful fight to impose U.S. minimum-wage laws on the Marianas. The islands, a U.S. territory located in the western Pacific Ocean, paid immigrant workers in their garment industry wages of just $3 an hour.
Governor Fitial was close to Zachares. As Speaker of the House it was Fitial who landed Abramoff his government contract during this time period. In fact, Zachares attended the governor's inauguration in 2006, flying in all the way from Washington D.C.
On or about June 2002 and through November 2004, ZACHARES served in various
positions on the staff of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the United States House of Representatives; specifically, ZACHARES served: (a) from June 2002 through December 2002 as Legal Counsel to the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee; (b) from January 2003 through December 2003 as Staff Director for the Coast Guard & Maritime Subcommittee; and (c) from January 2004 through November 2004, as Special Counsel to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The Lobbyists and Their Clients
3. Jack Abramoff was a Washington, D.C. lobbyist representing numerous clients, including the government of the CNMI, which Abramoff represented from 1996 to 2001, receiving fees in excess of $7 million.
4. Beginning in the mid-1990s, ZACHARES came to have extensive contact with Abramoff during ZACHARES' tenure as an official of the CNMI, and ZACHARES and Abramoff became personal and professional acquaintances.
6. On repeated occasions from late 2000 through in or about April 2004, ZACHARES communicated with his coconspirators, including Abramoff and his lobbyists, in furtherance of the below-described conspiracy to defraud using interstate electronic mail transmissions and interstate telephone calls.
8. It was a purpose of the conspiracy for ZACHARES to enrich himself by using and agreeing to use his official positions within the House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and by performing and agreeing to perform official acts in return for a stream of things of value.
9. It was a further purpose of the conspiracy to enrich Abramoff and his lobbyists by providing favorable official action to them and their clients, and by referring prospective clients to Abramoff and his lobbyists.
10. The conspiracy was carried out through the following manner and means, pursuant to what ZACHARES and Abramoff came to call their "two year plan":
a. ZACHARES would and did take a stream of things of value from Abramoff and his lobbyists, including the prospect of future employment as a lobbyist by Abramoff and of salary enhancements in that prospective employment, an overseas trip, monetary gifts, meals and drinks, golf, and tickets to professional sporting events and concerts.
b. In exchange for this stream of things of value, ZACHARES would and did provide a stream of favorable official action to, and would and did use his influence on behalf of', Abramoff, his lobbyists, and their clients.
20. ZACHARES took a stream of official action benefitting Abramoff, his business interests, his friends, and his lobbying clients. The stream of official action included, but was not limited to, the following:
a. On or about July 30, 2002, ZACHARES sought, at Abramoff's request, a United States Department of Justice Threat Assessment Report concerning Guam and the CNMI that was not then available to the public.
Meanwhile, a Texas jury is now determining the outcome in Tom Delay's money laundering case.