Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington

Update: Abramoff's lawyer Neal Sonnett told CNN Abramoff will plead guilty in the Florida case tomorrow. The charges there pertain to Abramoff and Adam Kidan allegedly falsifying a $23 million wire transfer in order to obtain a $60 million loan to purchase SunCruz Casinos, a fleet of offshore gambling boats.

Update: The Plea Agreement in the Washington case is now available here. (pdf)

Some quick notes: The agreement binds only the Public Integrity Section and Fraud Section of the Criminal Division and the Tax Division of the Department of Justice. It does not bind any other prosecutors or agencies. It does not bind the Civil Division of the IRS. Restitution to victims is set at $25 million. He will pay 1.7 million restitution to the Criminal Division of the IRS for his tax evasion, and this will be used to offset any civil tax liability for 2001 to 2003, but there is no promise that he won't owe them more. He cannot transfer assets to avoid paying restitution, but he does not need permission to use his assets for living expenses, business expenses or attorneys' fees.

His guidelines come out at level 31 (108 to 135 months), including his three point reduction for acceptance of responsibility. For his cooperation, he will receive an as yet unspecified reduction. The Government is recommending that any sentence in the D.C. case be concurrent with the sentence he receives in Florida.

Assuming his guidelines in Florida are not higher than those in the D.C. case, it looks like Abramoff got a great deal. A cooperation reduction of between 25 and 50% is not unusual. Doing the math, he could come out with a sentence between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 years if the Government went with a 50% reduction.(edited to reflect 3 point reduction included in guideline computation)

Update: Note, contrary to what some are reporting, there is as yet no plea agreement document on file in this case, only the charges, which again, are here (pdf). Thus, any sentencing concessions are not yet on record. He pleaded guilty to all of the counts filed and sentencing has been deferred. A status hearing is set for March.

The plea agreement should be forthcoming in the Florida case. It's not on the docket as of yet. (Miami may not have electronic filing....the Abramoff docket has not been updated since Dec. 30 as I write this at 12:00 MST.)

Update: Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to the information. Washington Post reports on the court proceeding. Raw Story reports that it was Michael Scanlon's ex-fiance who turned them in. Here's the e-mail trail,(pdf), via Crooks and Liars. CNN update on the plea has video.

Update: It's a done deal. Abramoff will plead guilty to charges in Miami and Washington.

Here is the Criminal Information (charges) (pdf) filed in Washington today. He will plead to three counts, conspiracy, tax evasion, and mail fraud (honest services.)

Original Post: 1:28 am

As I write this, there is no official confirmation that Jack Abramoff and the Justice Department have agreed on the final terms of a plea deal. Bloomberg and the Houston Chronicle report they are ever so close. By morning, I expect it will be a done deal. The deadline is this afternoon. But what took so long?

Reading between the lines: I think Abramoff and DOJ agreed last week on the counts Abramoff would plead to, the cooperation he would give and the general sentencing range, although not necessarily the specific amount he would have to do in jail. That's the easy part. The hard part is always in the details.

Abramoff is represented by two excellent defense lawyers, Abbe Lowell of Washington and Neal Sonnett of Miami. The case in Florida has a trial date of January 9, and the Judge has scheduled a hearing today at 3:30 to learn if there is a plea. If it's not done by then, they reportedly can tell the Judge he will have it by Wednedsay. But, it's coming.

I know both of these lawyers, and I'm sure, they are pressing for every last advantage, some of which take not only time but promises from those outside DOJ.

One of the most important details the defense will want is getting what is called a " global agreement" -- one that binds others outside the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami and Washington, particularly state authorities and other federal agencies involved in separate but related criminal investigations..

Abramoff doesn't want to make a plea deal with the feds, only to turn around and face similar charges in another federal or state court. I'm thinking Texas, but that's just a guess. Usually, prosecutors tell the defense they can't bind anyone outside their own office. But, that's not exactly true. If it wanted to, the U.S. Attorneys office could go to state prosecutors and get a promise either that the particular state won't prosecute the defendant, or if it does, any sentence would be run concurrently with the federal sentence.

In the event Abramoff and the Government do disagree about the sentencing guidelines, there can be a compromise paragraph in the plea agreement that says the Government believes the guideline range to be X while the defense believes it to be Y. They will agree to let the Court decide who is right.

Then there are issues of restitution and forfeiture. How much will Abramoff owe when he gets out of jail? When Enron's Rick Causey pleaded guilty last week, the plea agreement provided for a forfeiture of $1.2 million which included his restitution and fine-- no small feat by his defense lawyers. Abramoff's lawyers will want him to come out of jail with a chance for a fresh start. Dollar amounts for fines and restitution matter, particularly because Abramoff won't be able to bargain away any civil tax liability.

I'm sure this case is tricky because Abramoff is trying to resolve not only his criminal liability in the charged case in Florida, and as yet uncharged crimes in Washington, but also cases involving other jurisdictions where charges will be coming down the pike soon. But if both parties want the deal badly enough, as it appears these parties do, there's ways to work around almost everything.

If there is a plea deal, I'll try to get the actual plea agreement as soon as it's available on PACER and update then. If there's not, then it means the Government wouldn't accede to demands considered non-negotiable by Abramoff. In that event, more power to Abbe and Neal for sticking to their guns.

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    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#1)
    by joejoejoe on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 04:48:47 AM EST
    I didn't know what PACER was so I looked it up. <
    Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts, and from the U.S. Party/Case Index. Currently most courts are available on the Internet.
    Hooray for public access to information (and TalkLeft). I clicked through all your ads because I found out PACER isn't free ;).

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 07:25:36 AM EST
    Jack Who-off? Sorry, couldn't resist. Hope he rots, but not after singing like a bird.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#3)
    by Dadler on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 07:43:35 AM EST
    And, boy, do we pamper white collar criminals. These are precisely the people who NEED a stay in prison. Folks from the ghetto are in prison already, in many respects, they know what that kind of restricted freedom is. The Abramoff's of the world might be the ONLY people who could benefit from basic incarceration.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#4)
    by mjvpi on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 07:52:53 AM EST
    Are there limits on the scope of what Mr. Abramoff will have to talk about? Is that part of the negotiations?

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#5)
    by Patrick on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 08:54:00 AM EST
    Wasn't there some connection to a murder in this case? Or someone close to this case?

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#6)
    by Bill Arnett on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 08:57:32 AM EST
    I am not familiar with the fine details of "cutting a deal", but if this one is done successfully, well, justice will have struck the motherlode of corruption that is the Rethuglican Party. At some point even Rethug supporters MUST disavow Bushco and his stormtroopers or be identified with them to their detriment.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 10:23:00 AM EST
    Don't get too excited. Let's remember that all this is being run by Bu$hco's DOJ. Federal prosecutors know what will happen to them if they go too far. Protestations to the contrary, I think Repubs know that Delay is too tainted to continue now...and a lot of them don't like him anyway, and don't want him back in a leadership position. My guess is that they'll offer up Delay as a sacrificial lamb in this deal...and the rest of the deal will include whatever democrats Abramoff touched. I'm guessing that's the extent of this whole thing. We'll see Delay take a hit (good riddance), and then we'll see three or four Democrats accused and two or three indicted. Remember, Karl Rove and Darth Cheney are still in charge in D.C. Don't think for a minute the Bush DOJ has any intention of bringing down a boat load of Repubs in this. And Karl will use it to make Democrats look worse...mark my words.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#8)
    by Patrick on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 10:52:27 AM EST
    John, Actually get excited. This is part of the problem with partisan politics. Once you get too far into it, it's impossible to tell where partisanship ends and doing what is right begins. Anyone who took his money for influence or acts should be charged and go to jail. Republican or democrat. The fact that one side or another fits an agenda should have no bearing, and both sides are just as bad.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#9)
    by Che's Lounge on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 11:07:17 AM EST
    Patrick, I believe this is what you were referring to.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 11:08:39 AM EST
    These are the kinds of people I would love to see doing hard time. On a related note: Dadler, there is an article in the Houston Chronicle today about some "white collar" criminals suing the Fed Bur Prisons because their Club Fed was shut down and they were transfered to a real prison (albeit a low security one). I almost snorted corn flakes through my nose reading that sob story.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#11)
    by Patrick on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 11:35:20 AM EST
    Charlie, You've proved your ability to cut and paste, now you're just wasting bandwith. I've heard several names associated with this particular scandal, they include Pelosi and Reid. You think Demo's are better, good for you. Hitch yourself to their wagon. I'll remain skeptical.
    Believe me, I make no claim that the Dems are pure as the driven snow,
    I think that's just what you'd like me to believe.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 11:55:58 AM EST
    Patrick: I agree, if a Dem is tainted, they should be held accountable, but I think you missed my point. More info has come out, so it appears the first person that is going to take a hit is Ney from Ohio. He's mentioned in the document (not by name). My cynicism comes from the fact that I think the deal is NOT based purely on the legal situation, but is political in nature. I think we all knew Abramoff was going to get a "deal." He knows too much about too many. So, rather than just being about taking down all that were involved, here's how I see the "deal" playing out. Abramoff gets a deal, so Justice has to get someone pretty quickly or people are lobbing tomatos at Gonzales office window. That will be Ney. Delay's involvement is so obvious, they'll probably have to go after him too...but that will be the end of the Repubs. And, they'll get them indicted and tried pretty quickly (or reach deals with them). Next, getting closer to the 2006 elections, they'll go after a number of Dems. Repubs will be back running on a law and order plank..."see, we cleaned up Washington, even when it was some of our own, but look ... the Dems were as bad or worse." But remember, while some Dems might be involved, the Repubs were pulling the power levers, so it was only their votes that really mattered. This deal will turn the whole Repub corruption scandal on its head, and after Ney and maybe Delay, you won't hear any more about it.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 12:52:29 PM EST
    I agree this should be a clean up of all the dirty birds. Take a look at this posting I did about Clyburn and Thompson, two congressional black caucus members that got trips to Saipan. I only hope that there aren't a lot on the blue side. But if they are dirty, they are of no help to their party or their country.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#14)
    by Dadler on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 01:21:14 PM EST
    J, Thanks for the plea agreement post, just printed it out. How much actual time off his sentence do you think this translates into? I see what he's looking at, but not what it woulda been at level 34. And how 'bout a hand for Rep #1, quite a supporting performance it seems.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#15)
    by Dadler on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 01:31:23 PM EST
    Hmm. I wonder how much they were going to pay for the actual BOATS and how much was going to somehow sink into their POCKETS.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#16)
    by mjvpi on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 01:38:42 PM EST
    Does anyone at TL know who the federal prosecutors are? Are we talking Fitzgerald or Gonzales?

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#17)
    by jimcee on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 04:31:55 PM EST
    Corrupt politicians go down and that is fine by me. I really don't care whether there is an 'R' or 'D' after thier appellation. This should be fun. With thanks to McCain and Feingold for thier anti-First-Amendment abridging Act that will lead to more of this kind of stuff. Corrupt politicians? Who'd a thunk it. Speaking of corruption, Has anyone caught any stories about NYAG Elliot Spitzer threatening private citizens with his paternally bought Attorney Generalship? You might want to check out the WSJ or the NYPost for that story, or denigrate it without having read either as is your right.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#18)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 04:34:57 PM EST
    Jimcee, the thread is Abramoff's plea deal, not Spitzer or even corruption. Nice try though. No hijacking allowed.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#19)
    by jimcee on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 06:22:31 PM EST
    TL, Sorry. I didn't mean to try to high-jack the thread, apoligies. My point was that there is corruption as a point of fact in politics and there seems that this scandal will tar both dems and reps. Although most will probably be republicans. The Spitzer meme is still an interesting one. Afterall when an AG threatens constituents it seems rather unseemly to me.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#20)
    by jimcee on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 06:41:14 PM EST
    TL, I apologize for changing the subject on this thread as I have just become aware of your new posting policy as of Monday. I will behave in the future, Sincerly, Jim.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#21)
    by scarshapedstar on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 09:51:07 PM EST
    Patrick, I'm going to side with Digby on this one.
    And all Dana Bash and Ed Hanry can say is that Jack Abramoff lent his skybox to Democrats and Republicans alike. Which he did. He lent it 1% of the time to Democrats and 99% of the time to Republicans. That makes all of them equally corrupt.
    Bipartisan, schmipartisan. Jack Abramoff is one of the biggest cogs in the Republican machine. He's about as Democrat-friendly as Dick Cheney.

    Re: Abramoff Pleads Guilty in Washington (none / 0) (#22)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 09:54:44 PM EST
    No problem, jimcee. Thanks for your response.