A federal appeals court in Washington today affirmed the conviction of Jack Abramoff friend David Safavian, the former chief of staff for the General Services Administration who was charged with obstruction of justice and false statements in a public corruption case.
Safavian's trip to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was his second in recent years. In the earlier appeal, the court tossed the case back to the district court for a retrial, which was held in late 2008. Today a three-judge panel--Judges Douglas Ginsburg and Janice Rogers Brown, with Senior Judge Harry Edwards--unanimously upheld the jury’s verdict in the second trial.
The charges against Safavian stem from a golfing trip in Scotland he took with Abramoff and others in August 2002. Prosecutors alleged Safavian lied to government officials and agents about the extent of his professional relationship with Abramoff and about details surrounding the trip. A grand jury in Washington federal district court first indicted Safavian in October 2005.
After the D.C. Circuit in June 2008 remanded the case to the trial court, plea negotiations failed. Prosecutors tacked on two additional counts--including false statements to the FBI--that were not in the original case. Safavian’s trial attorneys, who included Lawrence Robbins of Washington’s Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber, called the government’s action vindictive.
The D.C. Circuit said in a per curiam ruling that the prosecutors were “objectively reasonable” to change trial strategy in response to the appeals court’s initial adverse ruling that remanded the case for a second trial.
An appellate lawyer for Safavian, Steptoe & Johnson partner Shannen Coffin, said today: “We are obviously disappointed with the result. We are studying the opinion and considering any further options that Mr. Safavian might have.”
Justice Department Sangita Rao argued the case for the government in the D.C. Circuit in October.
The Justice Department did not provide immediate comment on the ruling. Safavian, sentenced to about a year in prison, has been free pending the outcome of his appeal. The government opposed Safavian’s release on bond.