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Lobbyist Abramoff gets new four-year prison term

  • Story Highlights
  • Abramoff gets four years in federal prison
  • Sentence to run concurrently with remainder of term he's now serving
  • Abramoff calls himself "broken man" in pleading for leniency
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From Terry Frieden
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in federal prison Thursday for his corrupt lobbying activities, which led to the downfall of a congressman and several other Washington officials.

Choking back tears, Abramoff delivered a highly emotional plea for the judge to exercise leniency, but readily admitted he had become corrupt.

"I stand before you a broken man," he said during the two-hour sentencing hearing. "I am not the same man who happily and arrogantly engaged in a lifestyle of political and business corruption," he said.

The once-powerful Abramoff appeared a meek figure, wearing a brown jail-issued T-shirt and speaking with his head slightly bowed.

Abramoff acknowledged illegally showering gifts on officials who provided favors for his clients. Most prominent of those convicted in the case was former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio. Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles and several key congressional aides were also convicted in the case.

Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle had wide discretion and could have sentenced Abramoff to as much as 11 years behind bars. But government prosecutors urged her to deliver a relatively light sentence of 3 years and 3 months because Abramoff had been fully cooperative in the wide-ranging corruption probe.

Defense lawyers asked for an even lighter sentence.

Huvelle openly wrestled with her decision. She disclosed she had received about 350 letters -- many from friends and supporters of Abramoff.

Adding to the complexity, the judge heard from three representatives of Native American tribes. Two of them argued strongly for a severe sentence while a third was supportive of Abramoff and wanted him released from custody.

Even Abramoff's lawyer Abbe Lowell called his client an "a modern day Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

"He did bad. He did very bad, but not as bad as people think," Lowell told the judge.

Abramoff was too emotional to read a prepared statement and struggled to get his words out.

"I've fallen into an abyss. My name is the butt of a joke, the source of a laugh and the title of a scandal," Abramoff said. "I hope this horrible nightmare ends at some point," he said.

Huvelle then told Abramoff his serious crimes had violated the public's confidence in its government.

"The true victims here are the members of the public," she said.

Huvelle then said despite his cooperation with the government it was important to mete out a harsher sentence "to promote respect for the law and as a deterrence."

Abramoff has to date served 22 months in prison on a separate conviction involving casinos in Florida. The judge said that the new four-year sentence will run concurrently with the remaining Florida sentence which means Abramoff will spend a total of nearly six years in prison.

All About Jack AbramoffBob Ney

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