WASHINGTON — A federal judge today denied former top White House procurement official, David Safavian a new trial. Safavian, a friend of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, was found guilty in June of three counts of making false statements to investigators and one count of obstruction of justice surrounding a 2002 golf junket to Scotland. Also accompanying Safavian on the golfing trip with Abramoff, were Congressman Bob Ney (R-Oh), Ralph Reed, Neil Volz, and two aides to Ney.
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Judge Paul Friedman writes, "This Court concludes that there are no grounds for granting either defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on any of the counts for which he was convicted, or his motion for a new trial."
The trial also provided new details of the lavish golf trip, as well as photos taken on the historic St. Andrews course of Ney with Abramoff and others. Volz, a longtime Ney loyalist who went to work for Abramoff's firm in 2002, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. Volz was a star prosecution witness in the Safavian trial.
Volz detailed the Scotland trip as a fete of eating and drinking and telling funny stories on the plane ride overseas. He said playing golf on the fabled Old Course totaled $400 per round. And, as far as he knew, Volz said, none of the public officials on the trip, including Ney and Safavian, ever paid for golf rounds or entertainment in Scotland. Ney has been the subject of a Justice Department investigation, but has not been charged.
Safavian's attorneys had argued that including hundreds of e-mails between him and Abramoff as evidence constituted hearsay that might have prejudiced jurors.
Safavian attorney, Barbara Van Gelder wrote, "The e-mails remain hearsay since the truth or credibility of the matter asserted must be weighed by the jury."
Abramoff was never called to testify at the trial, but hundreds of his e-mails to Safavian were read into the court record during the trial.
Today Judge Friedman writes the e-mails could not be hearsay because Safavian himself testified about them, "Safavian took the stand at trial and testified about many of the e-mails in question, including the numerous e-mails between himself and Jack Abramoff. In doing so, Mr. Safavian frequently testified what meaning he gave to the e-mails he both sent and received, what effect they had on his actions, and what import they had to him."
Golf, lobbying connections
The Scotland golf trip came at a time when e-mails between Abramoff and Safavian show the lobbyist was interested in securing leases on two GSA controlled properties. The e-mails indicate that Safavian assisted Abramoff with information on the Old Post Office, and a former Naval Surface Weapons facility, White Oak, in suburban Maryland.
The judge asserts, in denying Safavian a new trial, that Safavian "falsely stated" that Abramoff "did not have any business with GSA at the time Mr. Safavian was invited on the trip to Scotland, when in truth and fact, Mr. Safavian well knew, prior to the August 2002 Scotland trip that Mr. Abramoff was seeking to lease or purchase GSA-controlled property."
Safavian is scheduled to be sentenced in October. He could be imprisoned for 20 years on the four counts, although federal sentencing guidelines suggest he will face a much lighter sentence.
Volz is awaiting sentencing. He could get up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine but hopes for a much more lenient sentence by cooperating.
Abramoff is also waiting to be sentenced in the Washington influence peddling scandal. He has already been sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison for his role in the Suncruz casino cruise line case along with his partner Adam Kidan.
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