Jack Abramoff is one step closer to a plea deal for both the Miami and DC cases against him.
Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under indictment for fraud in South Florida, is expected to complete a plea agreement in the Miami criminal case, setting the stage for him to become a crucial witness in a broad federal corruption investigation, people with direct knowledge of the case said.
One participant in the case said the deal could be made final as early as next week.
The terms of the plea deal have not been completed, and the negotiations are especially complicated because they involve prosecutors both in Miami and in Washington, where Mr. Abramoff is being investigated in a separate influence-peddling inquiry, participants said. Details of what he feels comfortable pleading guilty to are "probably largely worked out," the participant said, while the details of the prison sentence are less resolved.
Some of the details are still "in flux," said a participant who, like others interviewed, was granted anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
"Anything can happen," the participant said, adding that the agreement could fall apart. Another person with detailed knowledge of the case said that while negotiations were continuing, the deal could take longer than another week to be settled.
But after a lengthy bargaining phase, Mr. Abramoff's lawyers and prosecutors in the Florida case appear closer to resolving several of the central issues in the plea deal, in which the defendant would receive a reduced prison sentence - most likely in the range of five to seven years, though that is fluid - in exchange for pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against his former associates.
At the same time, prosecutors in Washington have been sifting through evidence of what they believe is a corruption scheme involving at least a dozen lawmakers and their former staff members, many of whom worked closely on legislation with Mr. Abramoff and accepted gifts and favors from him. Although Mr. Abramoff is also in negotiations in that case, it is unclear whether a settlement can be reached in time for both agreements to be announced at once.
Meanwhile, Abramoff's good buddy Tom DeLay got more bad news from the courts again
A state appeals court has rejected motions filed by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay to help him get a speedy trial, an essential step in the Sugar Land Republican's efforts to regain his congressional leadership post.
In an order made public today, the intermediate appeals court rejected DeLay's bid to be tried on a money laundering charge while prosecutors appeal the dismissal of a related charge accusing DeLay of violating the election code.
DeLay's attorneys said they would take the matter to the state's highest criminal appeals court.
The panel of two Democrats and one Republican also overruled a motion to expedite the appeal by shortening the time for filing briefs from the customary 20 days per side to five days.
DeLay's lead lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said DeLay will seek emergency relief from the Court of Criminal Appeals.
"We're not through. We're going to the top," said DeGuerin.
One Texas legal expert questioned DeGuerin’s original strategy in handling DeLay’s case. By filing a motion with Priest to dismiss the indictments brought by Earle, DeGuerin was gambling on an quick victory. But when Priest let the money-laundering charge go forward while quashing the criminal conspiracy allegation, this opened the door for Earle to file an appeal, which meant that DeLay may have to wait months for a decision.
In other words, Priest’s ruling strengthened DeLay’s legal position by stripping one of the charges lodged against him, yet hurt him politically, since the case could now drag out for months. “It was a strategic error,” said this source. “DeGuerin was not looking down the road to the appeals process.”
And finally, I just want to make sure that you saw this:
"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know."
-- Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), on the House floor, November 16, 1995.