David Ayres, formerly chief of staff to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and now chief executive officer of Ashcroft’s firm, the Ashcroft Group, and his wife, Laura, were called by defense lawyers who hoped their testimony regarding tickets Ring is alleged to have given them would help the defense. Ring is charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, payment of a gratuity and obstruction of justice. The charges are related to Ring’s lobbying between 2001 and 2004, when he worked at Greenberg Traurig with Abramoff. The hearing was in front of Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Prosecutors allege Ring gave basketball tickets to the Ayres’ in exchange for help securing $16.3 million in government money for a tribal jail for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a longtime Abramoff client. The Ayres’ have not been charged with any crime. Despite that, prosecutors have declined to grant them immunity from prosecution. Both Ayres and his wife invoked the Fifth Amendment when called to the stand. Department of Justice prosecutor Michael Ferrara declined to comment on whether the couple will face any charges.
Defense lawyer Andrew Wise of Miller & Chevalier asked Huvelle to compel the government to grant the Ayres’ immunity so they could testify, but she declined. Huvelle did strike from the record e-mails in which Laura Ayres asked Ring for expensive tickets to a Washington Wizards basketball game to give to her husband for his birthday. Wise said Ring told her not to tell her husband where they came from and therefore they weren’t a bribe.