Tuesday, January 03, 2006

jack abramoff pleads guilty

today is the fist business day of the new year, and if today's hottest story signals a trend, 2006 will be one hell of a year.

jack abramoff, who was a very big cog in the massive gop financial machine, is pleading guilty to multiple felonies, and has apparently been cooperating with prosecutors for many months:

Mr. Abramoff, 46, is pleading guilty to fraud, public corruption and tax evasion, setting the stage for prosecutors to begin using him as a cooperating witness against his former business and political colleagues. In exchange, Mr. Abramoff faces a maximum of about 10 years in prison in the Washington case.

After entering his guilty plea in United States District Court in Washington, Mr. Abramoff will also announce a plea agreement in a related Florida case, in which he was indicted last year. In that case, he is pleading guilty to fraud and conspiracy in connection with his purchase of the SunCruz casino boat line, and will face a maximum of about seven years' prison time.

Mr. Abramoff has been talking to investigators in the corruption case for many months, said participants in the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. They said he had provided a full picture of what evidence he could offer against other suspects.

His participation in Washington has taken place mostly below the radar, as prosecutors made the Miami case the focus of their public work and as Mr. Abramoff and his associates claimed they were preparing to stand trial, facing up to as many as 30 years in prison.

Mr. Abramoff will enter separate pleas in each location. But the deal reached with the Justice Department is all-encompassing, reducing the severe penalties Mr. Abramoff could have faced in either investigation, in exchange for his inside knowledge of certain lobbying work and legislative actions. One element of the deal is that he can serve prison time in the two cases concurrently, although the sentencing will not take place until much further along in the investigation.

as redhedd explains, this means that abramoff's punishment will be predicated on how well he helps the prosecution. if he flips hard and testifies against a bunch of his washington cronies, he'll get a relative slap on the wrist. if he goes weak-kneed, the prosecution will throw the book at him.

last year seemed to be the year of the republican scandal, but abramoff is the motherlode. he had his fingers in almost every pie the GOP made. if jack starts to bring people down with him, expect a lot of high-profile republicans (many of them congressmen) to fall.

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