David Safavian
Melina Mara  /  Washington Post file
Former head of federal procurement, David Safavian will not have to begin serving his 18-month prison sentence until his appeal is decided.
NBC News
updated 11/17/2006 5:29:01 PM ET 2006-11-17T22:29:01

David Safavian, the convicted friend of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was sentenced to 18-months in prison for lying about his dealings with Abramoff, will remain free on bond pending appeal of his conviction, and his prison sentence will be stayed until that appeal.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman granted Safavian, a former top procurement officer in the Bush Administration, and one time chief of staff at the General Services Administration, a request to stay out of prison until an appeals court rules.

Judge Friedman writes in his ruling, "The Court will grant Mr. Safavian's motion for release on bond pending appeal because he has shown by clear and convincing evidence that (1) he is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the community; and (2) he has raised substantial questions of law or fact."  The judge says, if one or more of those questions is resolved in his favor, a new trial is likely would be required for Safavian.

Hundred of e-mails were admitted as evidence during his trial which were presented to document how Abramoff showered Safavian with trips and other perks while constantly peppering him for inside information about GSA-controlled property the lobbyist wanted -- including the historic Old Post Office in downtown Washington.

Admitting those e-mails at trial is one of the issues being appealed by Safavian's attorneys.  Judge Friedman writes that the issues being appealed, "particularly those concerning the admission of the e-mail evidence and the legal duty to disclose, present close questions of law that could be decided in another way. If, for example, the court of appeals disagreed with this Court regarding the admission of e-mail evidence, given the importance of that evidence to the government's case, Mr. Safavian might well be entitled to a new trial."

Safavian's convictions stem from his statements to GSA ethics officials and FBI investigators about a 2002 golf junket to Scotland he attended along with Abramoff, Rep Bob Ney, and former Christian Coalition head, Ralph Reed.

Safavian openly wept in court last month during his sentencing hearing as he asked for leniency and apologized for giving the appearance of impropriety but said it was not fraudulent.

"Yes, Jack Abramoff was a friend but he wasn't my coconspirator and I wasn't his," Safavian said. "There was no conspiracy to defraud anyone, least of all the taxpayers."

Ney pleaded guilty to covering up expensive gifts  and trips from Abramoff. He admitted taking trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from Abramoff in return for official actions on behalf of his clients.

Two former aides to Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, have also pleaded guilty, as has Ney's former chief of staff.

Roger Stillwell, a former Interior Department official, also pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor charge for not reporting tickets he received from Abramoff.

Abramoff began serving a 5-year, 10 month prison sentence for his fraud conviction in the SunCruz gambling casino scandal earlier this week at the Federal Corrections Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. Abramoff has not yet been sentenced for pleading guilty to masterminding the Washington influence peddling scandal.

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