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Abramoff sentenced to 4 years in prison

WASHINGTON — Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful lobbyist at the heart of a far-reaching political corruption scandal, was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday by a judge who said the case had shattered the public's confidence in government.

Abramoff appeared crestfallen as the judge handed down a sentence lengthier than what prosecutors had sought.

In the past three years, Abramoff has come to symbolize corruption and the secret deals cut between lobbyists and politicians. The scandal even contributed to the Republicans' loss of Congress in 2006.

More than a dozen people, including an Ohio congressman and a deputy interior secretary, have been convicted in the Abramoff lobbying scandal, and Justice Department officials said the investigation is continuing. Still under scrutiny are former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and retiring Rep. John T. Doolittle, R-Calif.

"I come before you as a broken man," Abramoff, 49, said at his sentencing before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. "I'm not the same man who happily and arrogantly engaged in a lifestyle of political and business corruption."

Already two years into a prison term from a separate case in Florida — a fraudulent casino deal — Abramoff will have spent about six years in prison by the time he is released, far longer than he and his lawyers expected for a man who became the key FBI witness in his own case.

With Abramoff's help, the Justice Department has won corruption convictions against former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles and several top Capitol Hill aides.

'The Perfect Villain'

Although Jack Abramoff expressed remorse Thursday, he also has spent his time in prison cooperating with a book by Boston journalist Gary Chafetz that portrays him as a victim of Washington politics. The Perfect Villain: John McCain and the Demonization of Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, set for publication this month, says Abramoff was pressured to plead guilty and was undone by biased prosecutors, reporters and political enemies. The book blames the Washington Post and Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee whose Senate committee investigated Abramoff, for making him the fall guy. McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Abramoff sentenced to 4 years in prison 09/04/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 5, 2008 5:45pm]
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