Lawyers for a former House official charged and convicted as part of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal want a federal judge in Washington to impose a sentence of probation, not prison.
A jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found the former official, Fraser Verrusio, guilty in February on charges he accepted an illegal gratuity and failed to report gifts on a financial disclosure form. Verrusio faces a guideline range of zero to six months in prison.
The defense lawyers for Verrusio, represented by Katten Muchin Rosenman and Baker Botts, said in court papers filed Monday night that Verrusio never sought or received tickets to concerts or sports events other than one time.
Verrusio was a policy director with the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Verrusio accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to a World Series game from a lobbyist working for an equipment company that wanted three amendments inserted in a highway bill.
Verrusio’s attorneys, including Katten’s Joshua Berman and Glen Donath and Richard Sobiecki of Baker, said he has been unable to maintain steady employment since charges were brought against him. He left his Washington, D.C., home for a more inexpensive residence in Alexandria.
Verrusio has worked from time to time on day labor jobs, including mold removal. His lawyers said his job prospects are "bleak." The former "distinguished public servant," the attorneys said, is now a "convicted former staffer."
“Mr. Verrusio has suffered greatly and has paid a severe price resulting from the charges, and now the convictions, in this case,” his lawyers said.
Verrusio, the lawyers said, does not deny the seriousness of the crimes for which he was convicted. But he “respectfully submits that a sentence of imprisonment is not merited by the totality of the facts and circumstances and would run contrary to the aims of sentencing,” the attorneys said.
Justice Department prosecutors in the Public Integrity Section said in a brief (PDF) filed Monday that Verrusio was a “full participant” in the receipt of illegal gratuities.
The prosecutors, including Peter Sprung and David Harbach II, said Verrusio should be sentenced for his own conduct, not his role in any larger conspiracy.
“Verrusio cannot plausibly argue he was a minimal (or minor) participant in obtaining a trip for himself, conspiring to do so, and then concealing it from others to whom he had a duty to disclose it,” Sprung said. “After all, Verrusio accepted the airplane tickets, use of the chauffeured Cadillac Escalade, hotel accommodations, dinner at a steakhouse, a World Series ticket, a souvenir baseball jersey, and entertainment at a strip club.”
DOJ lawyers said the sentence imposed on Verrusio “will be noted among lobbyists and Verrusio’s former colleagues on Capitol Hill, and it should serve as a deterrent to the conduct of similarly situated individuals.”
Judge Richard Roberts set sentencing for August 5 in Washington federal district court.