Kevin Ring, who was arrested last week on conspiracy, fraud and obstruction-of-justice charges stemming from his work on Jack Abramoff’s lobbying team, has asked a federal judged to recuse herself from his case.
Ring is accused of attempting to thwart a grand jury and congressional investigation, of lying about getting an alleged $135,000 kickback, and of engaging in a scheme to deprive citizens of the “honest services” of their elected officials, including his former boss, Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.).
In a motion filed yesterday with Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Ring questioned whether her “impartiality has been eroded” as the principal judge in a five-year federal influence-peddling investigation that has generated guilty pleas from 13 former lobbyists and government officials. “The motion is made out of concern, not lack of respect,” wrote Ring’s lawyer, Richard Hibey of Miller & Chevalier.
Huvelle has accepted plea agreements in five related cases and sentenced several defendants in the probe, including Abramoff, who continue to cooperate with federal investigators. Presumably, the cooperating defendants would be available as government witnesses at Ring’s trial.
Hibey said Huvelle’s history with the investigation would make his defense awkward: He’d have to ask her to reject government legal theories she had already accepted in the other cases. The lawyer also said it was likely that Huvelle had reviewed grand jury evidence related to Ring’s case before he was indicted. Hibey was referring to a sealed pleading prosecutors filed with Huvelle on the eve of Abramoff's Sept. 4 sentencing, describing Abramoff's cooperation in unindicted cases. Ring’s indictment was returned on Sept. 5.
Recusal requests are rarely successful, Hibey granted, because “the issue always comes down to the discretion of the judge who is being asked to step aside.”
“As trial lawyers, we are not reluctant to advocate positions that are, to put it mildly, unpopular, so long as there is a principled basis for advancing them,” Hibey wrote. “We think what we have said here fits this situation entirely.”