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Ex-US Interior Official Gets Probation In Abramoff Case January 9, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Politics, US News.

WASHINGTON (AP)–A former Interior Department employee was sentenced to two years probation and fined $1,000 Tuesday for failing to report gifts he received from influence-peddler Jack Abramoff.

Roger Stillwell accepted hundreds of dollars worth of football and concert tickets from Abramoff, who at the time was lobbying for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Stillwell was with the Interior Department’s insular affairs office, which handles issues involving the island government.

“It was never my intention to deliberately violate the law, but clearly I did so, and I extend my sincerest apologies to this court,” Stillwell said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay handed down a relatively stiff penalty for the misdemeanor offense. Defense attorneys asked for six months probation and prosecutors didn’t oppose it because Stillwell cooperated in the Abramoff investigation.

“He is forever linked to a national symbol of excess and corruption,” defense attorney Justin Murphy said.

Stillwell received four tickets to a Washington Redskins game and two tickets to a Simon and Garfunkel concert in 2003. The tickets had a face value of about $485 but prosecutors said they were worth about $2,300.

Stillwell, who was friends with Abramoff before joining the Interior Department, provided the lobbyist information about the Northern Mariana Islands but prosecutors said it wasn’t directly in exchange for the gifts.

Kay said Stillwell demonstrated poor judgment but underscored the seriousness of the crime.

“I’m sure he recognized there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Kay said, “particularly when provided by lobbyists.”

Abramoff is serving about six years in prison for a fraudulent Florida casino business deal and awaits sentencing in a Washington bribery scandal. The Abramoff investigation ensnared its first congressman this fall when former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, admitted accepting gifts in exchange for government action.

Several Capitol Hill staffers and a former Bush administration official also have pleaded guilty or been convicted in the case.

Stillwell is eligible to have his probation terminated after 18 months.


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