Kevin Ring, a Jack Abramoff aide who was prosecuted in Washington's lobbying scandal, faces a guideline range of 46 to 57 months in prison when he is sentenced next month, far less than the more than 17 years that federal prosecutors recommended.
Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia set the prison range today in a lengthy opinion that closely examines the history of the honest services case against Ring and explores varying sentencing methodologies.
U.S. Justice Department prosecutors had recommended a range of between about 17 years to nearly 22 years. Among other things, prosecutors urged Huvelle to include a penalty for obstruction of justice.
Ring’s attorneys at Miller & Chevalier said the appropriate guideline range is 21 to 27 months, court records show. Ring said he was being unfairly punished for taking his case to trial.
The opposing positions, the judge said in her ruling today, “could hardly differ more dramatically.” Huvelle said she was troubled by how far apart the sides were in recommending a guideline sentence.
“The notion that an ostensibly objective system of sentencing guidelines can produce such wildly varying results for essentially the same offense conduct is deeply [troubling,]” Huvelle said.
Prosecutors said Ring is not in the same situation as the many others who were charged and convicted in the lobbying scandal. Ring was the only lobbyist who did not plead guilty and cooperate. Ring's defense attorneys contend he did cooperate, meeting regularly with prosecutors.
Huvelle called “unpersuasive” the government’s argument that it has unlimited freedom to grant leniency to defendants who plead guilty. The government’s position, the judge said, would “give prosecutors even more power over sentencing than is already the case.”
Ring qualified for an enhanced guideline penalty because he played an active supervisory role in the criminal scheme as a client manager at Greenberg Traurig, Huvelle said.
Ring, who worked with Abramoff, was first indicted in September 2008 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. A mistrial was declared. Ring was convicted in October 2010 at the second trial.
Among other charges, Ring was convicted of paying an illegal gratuity and honest services fraud for providing a former Justice Department lawyer, Robert Coughlin, tickets to a basketball game in exchange for contacting immigration officials to expedite a visa application.
Ring’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 26 in Washington federal district court.