Ring: Feds told him to lie to implicate Doolittle

Prosecutors say convictions are proof of the ex-congressman’s aide's culpability on corruption charges
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Described by prosecutors as “Team Abramoff’s chief operating officer,” ex-lobbyist Kevin Ring is now claiming the Justice Department wanted him to lie and send best friend and former U.S. Rep. John Doolittle to prison if he did. Ring, a former Doolittle aide who went on to work for Jack Abramoff, is to be sentenced in Washington, D.C. Oct. 26 on federal corruption charges. In a broad-ranging 10-page letter to sentencing Judge Ellen Segal Huvell, Ring provides his version of a six-year-old investigation and legal proceedings that leave him facing a three- to five-year prison term. “It became clear at a certain point that since I was not willing to incriminate Congressman Doolittle and others that I was going to pay a heavy price,” Ring said. “Despite my consistent statements about my relationship with Congressman Doolittle’s office, the government eventually asked me to say things that were totally at odds with what I had told them.” Countering Ring’s version of events – and denying any attempts to get Ring to falsely incriminate Doolittle – prosecutors state in their sentencing memorandum to the U.S. District Court judge that there was no need for Ring to lie. “Ring’s insinuation that the government was pressuring him to lie in order to implicate Congressman Doolittle seems particularly far-fetched,” the prosecution team states. “To be clear, the government did no such thing. A more accurate recounting of the facts demonstrates that the government never told him to lie, but instead asked him to admit the corrupt conduct that the jury has now found beyond a reasonable doubt.” Ring said the plea agreement he was shown was “a non-starter” to him but it was the only deal that the Justice Department would offer. Ring said his effort to defend himself in court was “not a game to me or an attempt to prove the prosecutors wrong.” Ring was acquitted on all charges in an initial corruption trial but found guilty this year of bribing public officials in the Abramoff scandal. Both John Doolittle and his wife, Julie’s names were prominently mentioned throughout the scandal. John Doolittle stepped down in 2008 and is currently working as a lobbyist. The Doolittles were named as unindicted co-conspirators in the case but never charged with a crime. They have adamantly maintained their innocence. Ring’s letter backs their contention. “I just wanted the truth to come out and believed it would,” Ring said. “Ultimately, your honor, I did not feel like I had a real choice. I was not only being asked to lie about my actions and my relationship with Congressman Doolittle, but I believed that I was being asked to condemn a person to prison.” Ring said he has no doubt that “my false testimony could have sent the congressman, Julie, and perhaps some on his staff to jail for crimes I did not think any of them had committed.” The Justice Department has a different view, with prosecutors stating that while Ring maintains that he did not seek to corrupt Doolittle or his staff “a jury found otherwise and convicted Ring of doing just that.” Prosecutors concluded in their memorandum that “Team Abramoff and its Chief Operating Officer Kevin Ring sought to corrupt numerous public officials with expensive meals, exotic trips, tickets to exclusive concerts and sporting events, and a low-show job for a congressman’s wife.” According to prosecutors, the scandal Abramoff and Ring were involved in contributed to the recent decline in the trust of government and “reinforced the belief that the political system is rigged in favor of those that would use their wealth to lavish gifts on public officials and corruptly influence the manner in which our nation’s limited tax dollars are spent.” The Justice Department is seeking a 50-month prison term and three years of supervised release. No fine is being requested. “The government recognizes the defendant’s severe financial hardship makes it impossible to pay a fine,” the memorandum states. --------------------------------------------------Congressman’s wife’s job “looks bad in hindsight” Kevin Ring’s pre-sentence letter to Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle spends nearly a page detailing the hiring by convicted ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff of Julie Doolittle’s Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions as an event planner. Ring said his role in orchestrating the hiring “looked bad in hindsight” but that he didn’t believe he had committed a crime. “I see the potential conflict of interest,” Ring stated. “I did not in 2000. Had I known from the outset that Jack was paying Julie from client funds or that there were months were she was given little work to do, I too would have had concerns. Given the facts, however, I perhaps naively believed that no one could possibly believe that I was trying to bribe Congressman Doolittle via employment for Julie.” Ring said in the letter that he may sound defensive. “But I was accused and convicted of scheming to give one of my best friends and mentors cash bribes,” Ring said. “I waived my right to personally respond to this charge during my trials, but it is important to me that you know that I would not be able to live with myself or face my children if I thought the charge had any basis in reality.” The Journal will report on new developments leading up to Ring's sentencing.