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Abramoff's sentencing delayed to further cooperation

Judge approves motion sought by federal investigators
Jack Abramoff arrived at the Federal Justice Building in Miami, Florida, to plead guilty to fraud in January.


Crime, Law and Justice
Jack Abramoff

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge Friday delayed sentencing of Jack Abramoff, a move the prosecutors requested to further the former lobbyist's cooperation with their investigation.

In January, Abramoff plead guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges, charges in Washington.

Federal investigators, citing Abramoff's cooperation, wanted to defer until at least June a status conference, initially set for next week, that could have led to Abramoff's sentencing.

The delay is "in order to allow Mr. Abramoff's cooperation to continue uninterrupted," according to a joint motion for a new status conference filed late Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle signed the order proposed by prosecutors in the Public Integrity and Fraud sections, along with Abramoff's defense counsel, Abbe Lowell.

A judge in Miami, Florida, earlier this month refused to grant a similar sentencing delay on Abramoff's guilty plea to separate fraud charges there. U.S. District Judge Paul Huck moved the sentencing date only from March 16 to 29 but rejected an open-ended deferral. He said, "I just don't want to get involved in a situation where it just goes on and on and on."

The length of Abramoff's sentences in both cases will depend on the level of help he provides to investigators as they continue their probe of corruption among public officials.

According to court documents in the case, Abramoff and a business partner supplied gifts to a member of Congress identified only as "Representative 1." The gifts were in exchange for the lawmaker's help on behalf of their clients, including support of specific bills and statements in the Congressional Record.

Government sources have identified the lawmaker as longtime Ohio Republican Rep. Robert Ney, who has denied wrongdoing. Soon after Abramoff pleaded guilty to corruption charges in January, Ney relinquished his chairmanship of the House Administration Committee and has since acknowledged being subpoenaed.

In September, Rep. Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, gave up his majority leader post after being indicted in his home state on charges he improperly steered corporate donations in 2002 to state legislative candidates.

A longtime associate of Abramoff, DeLay has denied wrongdoing, remains in Congress and continues to fight the charges.

Although there are no known ties to the Abramoff affair, another Republican, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California, resigned in November after pleading guilty to taking bribes from defense contractors.

Stalled reform

Since the lobbying scandal broke, members of Congress have pledged quick reform but have had difficulty meeting timetables for action.

At last word, the House had missed a February schedule to consider ethics legislation and now expects action before spring break in April.

The Senate last week suspended debate because of controversy surrounding the port security deal. It's not clear when it will consider any ethics bills.(Details)

Also swept up in Abramoff's lobbying activities is the Bush administration.

Abramoff was a Pioneer-level fund-raiser during Bush's re-election campaign, meaning the lobbyist raised more than $100,000.

The White House has given $6,000 of Abramoff's donations to charity.

Investigators have also been examining the activities of some officials at the Interior Department and the General Services Administration, sources have told CNN.

One former GSA official, David Safavian, was indicted in October on charges of obstructing a GSA proceeding, obstructing a U.S. Senate proceeding and making false statements in connection with the investigation. His lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, and a hearing on that motion is set for March 24.

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