Ex-Rep. Ney Gets 30 Months in Prison for Role in Abramoff Bribery Scandal

Former Rep. Bob Ney was sentenced Friday to 30 months in federal prison for his role in a congressional bribery scandal.

Ney, the first congressman ensnared in the case, pleaded guilty to trading official favors for golf trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle said that Ney would serve his time at a federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia.

When he is released, the judge said, Ney will serve another two years on probation and pay a $6,000 fine. She also ordered him into a prison alcohol rehabilitation program for treatment of a drinking problem he has acknowledged in recent months.

The sentence was harsher than recommended by prosecutors or Ney's lawyers, Huvelle said, because Ney had violated the trust place on him as a public official. "Both your constituents and the public trusted you to represent them honestly," she said.

Ney apologized to his family and constituents during a brief speech to the judge.

"I will continue to take full responsibility, accept the consequences and battle the demons of addiction that are within me," he said.

Earlier, Ney's defense team filed letters from his doctor and a former staff member who described his drinking problems and how they accelerated when he came under scrutiny in the Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Dr. Renato F. Dela Cruz, the congressman's physician, wrote that Ney's behavior had been influenced by an increase in alcohol consumption that began in 2001. Cruz said he urged the lawmaker to cut back, but the recommendation was ignored.

Parker, a former aide and friend, said Ney "was a functioning alcoholic who could rarely make it through the day without drinking and would often begin drinking beers as early as 7:30 a.m."

Ney's plea in the election-year scandal drew criticism from Republican congressional leaders and the White House. White House spokesman Tony Snow said Ney's criminal activity "is not a reflection of the Republican Party."

Ney pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements. He is the latest in a string of men convicted in a scandal that so far has caught several lobbyists and two members of the Bush administration.

The gifts Ney received ranged from a trip to Scotland bankrolled by Abramoff's clients to thousands of dollars in gambling chips that Ney got on two overseas junkets from foreign businessman Fouad al-Zayat, a Syrian-born aviation company owner in Cyprus.

Abramoff, once an influential lobbyist, is the star witness in an FBI corruption investigation that has shaken Capitol Hill. He is serving prison time for a fraudulent Florida casino deal.