WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 – Jack Abramoff will plead guilty to three felony counts in Washington on Wednesday as part of a settlement with federal prosecutors, ending an intense, months-long negotiation over whether the Republican lobbyist would testify against his former colleagues, people involved with the case said.
Mr. Abramoff, 46, is pleading guilty to fraud, public corruption and tax evasion, setting the stage for prosecutors to begin using him as a cooperating witness against his former business and political colleagues. In exchange, Mr. Abramoff faces a maximum of about 10 years in prison in the Washington case.
After entering his guilty plea in United States District Court in Washington, Mr. Abramoff will also announce a plea agreement in a related Florida case, in which he was indicted last year. In that case, he is pleading guilty to fraud and conspiracy in connection with his purchase of the SunCruz casino boat line, and will face a maximum of about seven years’ prison time.
Mr. Abramoff has been talking to investigators in the corruption case for many months, said participants in the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case. They said he had given investigators a full picture of what evidence he could offer against other suspects.
His participation in Washington has taken place mostly below the radar, as prosecutors made the Miami case the focus of their public work and as Mr. Abramoff and his associates claimed they were preparing to stand trial, facing up to as many as 30 years in prison.
Mr. Abramoff will enter separate pleas in both locations. But the deal reached with the Justice Department is all-encompassing, reducing the severe penalties Mr. Abramoff could have faced in either investigation, in exchange for his inside knowledge of certain lobbying work and legislative actions. One element of the deal is that any he can serve prison time in the two cases concurrently, although the sentencing will not take place until much further along in the investigation.
Details of the long-sought plea agreement were not finalized until after 9 p.m. on Monday night, following weeks of around-the-clock communications between numerous prosecutors in several Justice Department offices and lawyers for Mr. Abramoff. The deal, a so-called “global” arrangement because it encompasses separate prosecutions in Florida and Washington, comes less than a week before Mr. Abramoff was scheduled to stand trial in the Miami case.
Official Washington has been on edge for months awaiting word of Mr. Abramoff’s legal future. Once a masterful Republican lobbyist with close ties to the former House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay, he earned tens of millions of dollars representing Indian casino interests and farflung entities like the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Through a complicated web of financial arrangements, he helped funnel donations to his lawmaker friends’ and their campaigns, and took members of Congress, mainly the Republicans in power, on lavish trips.
Now, after more than two years of investigations, prosecutors have developed a list of at least a dozen lawmakers, congressional aides and lobbyists whose work appears suspect and who are now at the core of the case. With Mr. Abramoff’s cooperation, the Justice Department will have a potentially critical witness to alleged patterns of corruption or bribery within the Republican leadership ranks, which in some cases they believe also took the form of campaign donations and free meals at Mr. Abramoff’s downtown restaurant, Signatures.
Already, prosecutors have a key witness in Michael Scanlon, once press secretary to Mr. DeLay. Mr. Scanlon reached a plea agreement last year, putting pressure on Mr. Abramoff to reach his own deal. Now that Mr. Abramoff has done the same, one person involved in the case said: “When some people hear about this, they will clamor to cut a deal of their own.”
Wow, now he is not quite so “tough” anymore. Not that he was really tough, he just had a large amount of pull in the most powerful ghetto in the USA. In case you are wondering, that is Washington D.C. I have been there a few times, and I can say that it is a neat place to visit. But you can feel the corruptness in the air for sure.
Of course, I hope that Tom Delay (R) Texas, goes down in flames now. If there ever was a snake in the grass that needed to have its head cut off by the lawnmower, he qualifies as one of the top candidates.