Former congressional aide Neil Volz, who pleaded guilty to conspiring with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to bribe members of congress, was sentenced today to two years probation, a fine of $2000, and 100 hours of community service.
Volz, a former chief of staff to Rep. Bob Ney, was spared jail time because his cooperation with the Justice Department investigation was instrumental, according to prosecutors, in their conviction of the Ohio Republican.
A tearful Volz addressed the court just before hearing his sentence from U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle, saying, "I am ashamed for what I have done," adding, "I broke the law by putting my interests ahead of the public," and "I know the difference between right and wrong and what I did was wrong."
Volz admitted to accepting meals and tickets to sporting events from Abramoff, when he worked for Ney. And Volz also admitted that when he left congress to work for Abramoff's lobbying firm, he gave Ney and his staff many things of value. In return, Ney advocated for Abramoff's clients.
Key to the case against Ney
Prosecutor Kendall Day said that the government could not have prosecuted Ney without the assistance and cooperation of Volz.
Judge Huvelle said, "The government has clearly viewed you as the key to their case against Congressman Ney."
Ney is currently serving a 30 month prison sentence. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements, and acknowledged taking trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from Abramoff in return for official actions on behalf of the lobbyist's clients.
Prosecutors said Volz provided them information about trips paid by Abramoff that Ney went on to Scotland, New Orleans and Lake George.
Volz was also the government's star witness in the trial of former General Services Administration official, David Safavian who also went on the golf junket to Scotland with Ney and Abramoff.
Safavian was convicted and sentenced to 18-months in prison for lying about his dealings with Abramoff. He remains free on bond pending appeal of his conviction, and his prison sentence was stayed until that appeal.
Volz's lawyer, Timothy Broas, said Volz provided photographs andbar receipts from the Scotland trip.
And Volz also provided investigators information about another ex-chief of staff to Ney, William Heaton, who pleaded guilty in the influence peddling scandal.
Abramoff is currently serving a five-and-a-half-year sentence for his conviction in the Florida based SunCruz Casinos gambling boat fraud case.
Abramoff has yet to be sentenced in the Washington lobbying scandal.
Joel Seidman is an NBC producer based in Washington.