A judge provided jurors in the David Safavian case with guidance Friday on how to weigh a key piece of evidence in the first trial arising from the Jack Abramoff influence peddling scandal.
Jurors were deliberating the fate of Safavian, a former Bush administration official who is accused of concealing his relationship with Abramoff.
One of the central documents in the case is an ethics opinion that Safavian obtained from a government lawyer saying that Abramoff was not doing business with the General Services Administration nor was he seeking to do so - representations which the document says were made by Safavian.
Safavian, the GSA's chief of staff, later sent that ethics opinion to a Senate committee investigating Abramoff.
Following a question from the jury, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman told the panel that it could consider the ethics opinion in trying to determine whether Safavian lied to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and obstructed its investigation.
The judge told the jury that when Safavian sent the ethics opinion to the Senate committee, he arguably was adopting those statements as his own.
Earlier in the case, the judge dismissed part of one count in the indictment because there was no evidence at the trial that Safavian had ever told the ethics officer that Abramoff didn't have any business with GSA and was not seeking to do business with the agency.
Separately, the jury informed the court that one member of the panel inadvertently saw a news account of the case on the crawl at the bottom of a cable TV channel broadcast.
The judge also admonished jurors to not watch any news accounts of the case.