Abramoff Gets Notes of Support Before Sentencing

Disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has let others lobby on his behalf in his Florida fraud case — including rabbis, military officers and even a professional hockey referee.

More than 260 people wrote letters asking a federal judge for leniency when Abramoff and a former partner are sentenced, which was scheduled for Wednesday. Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud stemming from the 2000 purchase of a gambling boat fleet.

The letters, obtained by The Associated Press, put a new spin on the foibles and crimes of a man who became the face of Washington's latest corruption scandal.

"Jack is a good person, who in his quest to be successful, lost sight of the rules," National Hockey League referee Dave Jackson wrote, describing the time Abramoff brought 14 kids to his dressing room before a game.

Abramoff and one-time partner Adam Kidan admitted concocting a fake $23 million wire transfer to make it appear they had made a large cash contribution to the $147.5 million purchase of SunCruz Casinos. Based on that fake transfer, lenders provided the pair with $60 million in financing.

Abramoff, 47, and Kidan, 41, each face a minimum of five years and 10 months in prison, and a maximum of seven years and three months under plea agreements with prosecutors.

But U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck said he would delay their prison reporting date for several months so Abramoff and Kidan can continue cooperating in a Washington corruption investigation and a Florida probe into the murder of former SunCruz owner Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis.

The same week Abramoff pleaded guilty to the SunCruz fraud, he entered guilty pleas to three federal charges as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe that could involve up to 20 members of Congress and aides, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. No date has been set for his sentencing in that case.

Abramoff and Kidan are also expected to give statements in the investigation into the Feb. 6, 2001, slaying of Boulis, who was gunned down at the wheel of his car amid a power struggle over the gambling fleet. Three men face murder charges, including one who worked for Kidan as a consultant at SunCruz and who allegedly has ties to New York's Gambino crime family.

Both Abramoff and Kidan have repeatedly denied any role in or knowledge of the Boulis murder. But prosecutors say Kidan has not been ruled out as a suspect and defense attorneys say Abramoff could provide critical inside information about the dispute with Boulis, who also founded the Miami Subs restaurant chain.