Former staffer avoids jail time
A former congressional staffer who pleaded guilty to charges related to the Abramoff scandal was not given a prison sentence because the judge believed members of Congress were to blame for the corruption.
The Associated Press reported today that U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle sentenced John Albaugh to five years probation and four months in a halfway house, despite prosecutors asking for more than two years of jail time. The judge also did not levy a fine, saying Albaugh's fall from a six-figure salary on Capitol Hill to a $24,000 salary as part of a nonprofit was enough.
The judge indicated she was troubled by the lack of prosecutions aimed at members of Congress connected with the scandal. Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) was the only congressman charged for his Abramoff dealings, although a number of others were investigated.
Albaugh, formerly chief of staff to Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the House in 2008 and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. However, the prosecution asked Huvelle for a stiffer sentence in part because they believed Albaugh broke the plea agreement by changing testimony in the case Abramoff lobbyist Kevin Ring. Ring was nevertheless convicted on five counts relating to the scandal.