Ex-Bush Admin. Official Safavian Gets 18 Months in Prison

Former Bush administration official David Safavian was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Friday for concealing his relationship with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Safavian wept as he asked for leniency in his obstruction of justice case, telling a judge that Abramoff manipulated him and drew him into the scandal.

Safavian was convicted in June of lying to investigators about his relationship with the lobbyist while Safavian was chief of staff in the General Services Administration. He helped provided Abramoff with details about GSA projects and offered advice on dealing with the agency.

At sentencing Friday, Safavian apologized for giving the appearance of impropriety but said it was not fraudulent.

"Yes, Jack Abramoff was a friend, but he wasn't my coconspirator and I wasn't his," Safavian said. "There was no conspiracy to defraud anyone, least of all the taxpayers."

Early in the hearing, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman told defense attorneys he was leaning toward a sentence of 15-21 months in prison and was not convinced Safavian had accepted responsibility for his crimes.

"Get up here and tell me, 'I agree I concealed. I agree I obstructed justice,"' Friedman said. "I don't believe he's done that."

Abramoff is cooperating with an FBI corruption investigation into Congress and the White House. He has admitted using gifts to influence lawmakers.

The investigation snared its first congressman this month when Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, pleaded guilty to covering up expensive gifts and trips from Abramoff. He admitted taking trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from Abramoff in return for official actions on behalf of his clients.

Two former aides to Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, have also pleaded guilty, as has Ney's former chief of staff.

Additionally, Roger Stillwell, a former Interior Department official, pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor charge for not reporting tickets he received from Abramoff.