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Ney gets 30 months in corruption case

A prison alcohol-rehab program is also urged for the ex-congressman.

January 20, 2007|Joel Havemann | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) on Friday became the second member of Congress to draw a prison term for his role in influence-peddling scandals that helped doom the GOP majority on Capitol Hill in November's election.

Ney, 52, was sentenced by a federal judge to 30 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release -- during which he is to perform 200 hours of community service. He was also fined $6,000.

"You violated a host of laws that you, as a congressman, are sworn to enforce and uphold," U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle told Ney as she sentenced him.

Huvelle recommended that Ney enter a prison alcohol-rehabilitation program. Shortly after pleading guilty to the charges against him this fall, Ney acknowledged a drinking problem and checked into a rehabilitation program.

In brief remarks to the judge, Ney apologized to his family and constituents. "I will continue to take full responsibility, accept the consequence and battle the demons of addiction that are within me," he said.

Where Ney will serve and when he will report is to be determined later, but Huvelle recommended he be incarcerated at a minimum security federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va. Ney pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to commit multiple offenses involving the use of his elected office for corrupt purposes and to making false statements to investigators.

Co-conspirators in Ney's case, all of whom pleaded guilty, included lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Ney's former chief of staff and two aides to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

Ney admitted soliciting and accepting bribes from Abramoff and his lobbying staff in return for legislative actions that benefited Abramoff clients. He performed similar illegal favors for Fouad al Zayat, a Syrian-born businessman.

Among the items Ney accepted were a golfing trip to Scotland and thousands of dollars in casino gambling chips while on overseas junkets.

"Today's sentence makes it clear that our government is not for sale," said Assistant Atty. Gen. Alice S. Fisher, who heads the Justice Department's criminal division.

Ney, who served six two-year House terms, will be eligible to draw a congressional pension of about $29,000 a year if he waits until he is 62 to draw it, the National Taxpayers Union estimated.

A wide-ranging ethics bill passed by the Senate on Thursday and sent to the House would deny pensions to members of Congress convicted of felonies in the future, but even if it becomes law it would not apply to Ney.

Ney is the second former House member sentenced to prison in the last year. Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe) is serving an eight-year sentence in a separate case for bribery and tax evasion, stemming from help he provided defense contractors in obtaining lucrative federal contracts.

DeLay, once one of Washington's most powerful Republicans, and Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned from the House last year because of ethics controversies. DeLay is fighting charges in Texas that he violated state campaign finance laws; Foley quit after revelations that over several years he made sexual overtures to congressional pages.

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