Lobbyist Abramoff Sentenced, Remains Free

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his partner Adam Kidan are sentenced to nearly six years in prison for committing fraud in the purchase of a gambling fleet. But they were allowed to remain free while they help a corruption investigation targeting Congress.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Jack Abramoff's timetable calls for him to spend five years, 10 months in prison. That was the sentence for the lobbyist and for his partner, Adam Kidan. The two had pleaded guilty to faking a $23 million down payment when they purchased the SunCruz gambling fleet. This case is separate from Abramoff's political corruption case in Washington, where he has yet to be sentenced.

But as NPR's John Ydstie reports, some of the characters overlap.

JOHN YDSTIE reporting:

When Jack Abramoff and Adam Kidan were negotiating the purchase of the gambling fleet six years ago, they encountered some problems with SunCruz's then-owner Gus Boulis. Abramoff, whose star was rising in Washington, turned to his political contacts to apply some pressure. He convinced Ohio Congressman Bob Ney to disparage Boulis in the congressional record. Also, according to The Washington Post, he demonstrated his clout by having then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay's office send Boulis a flag that had flown over the U.S. capitol.

Boulis eventually relented and sold the business. Abramoff quickly began using the proceeds of the casino ships to pay for luxury boxes in Washington area sports arenas, where he entertained lawmakers and their staffs. In early 2001, he flew one of DeLay's aides and two aides to Montana Senator Conrad Burns to Miami for the Super Bowl and for a night of gambling on his ships. At about the same time, the former SunCruz owner, Gus Boulis, was killed in a gangland-style slaying. An associated of Adam Kidan's is one of those accused in the case. Investigators say Abramoff is not a suspect.

At the hearing yesterday, the judge indicated he'd be open to reducing the prison time for Abramoff and Kidan for further cooperation in the murder case, and the Washington-influenced pedaling investigation. Both will remain free for at least 90 days to facilitate that cooperation. The two are also required to pay $21.7 million in restitution.

Abramoff told the court yesterday, "I hope the Almighty and all those I have wronged will forgive my trespasses."

John Ydstie, NPR News, Miami.

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