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Abramoff Figure Argues for No Jail

October 24, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A congressman and a former House aide have written letters in support of former Bush administration official David Safavian, who is trying to avoid jail time in the Jack Abramoff investigation.

Safavian, former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, was convicted in June of lying to investigators about his dealings with Abramoff.

Prosecutors are seeking a three-year prison sentence in Safavian’s case, which was the first guilty verdict by a jury in the corruption probe surrounding Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist who pleaded guilty in January in a conspiracy to corrupt public officials.

In seeking a sentence of probation or house arrest, Safavian’s attorneys submitted letters from supporters including a church leader, a former congressional aide and Safavian’s former boss, Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah.

``When David was my chief of staff, he worked tirelessly in my Washington office. He would come in early, stay late, and devote his undivided attention to the needs of the people in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District,″ Cannon wrote.

The letters are sealed but Safavian’s attorney referred to excerpts of some in a court filing Monday.

The list of letter-writers also included Melissa Wojciak, former staff director for Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., at the Government Reform Committee. Wojciak wrote that Safavian ``always ensured that he was responsible in managing the taxpayer’s dollars.″

Safavian is scheduled to be sentenced Friday. Prosecutors argue that letting him off without prison time would be a ``miscarriage of justice.″

E-mails presented at trial showed how Abramoff showered Safavian with trips and other perks while badgering him for information about GSA-controlled property the lobbyist wanted _ including the historic Old Post Office in downtown Washington.

Defense attorneys wrote that Safavian did not harm anybody and committed no fraudulent acts. They have presented a list of past cases they believe are comparable.

That list includes: Henry Cisneros, the Clinton administration housing secretary who paid a $10,000 fine for lying to the FBI about payments to an ex-mistress; former Rep. Chris Perkins, D-Ky., who was sentenced to three months in a halfway house in 2000 for lying to a probation officer about his income; and businesswoman Martha Stewart, who received five months in prison for lying to investigators about a stock sale.

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