Safavian Wants Lobbying Trial Conviction Overturned

A former Bush administration official convicted of lying about his relationship with lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked a judge Thursday to overturn the verdict or grant him a new trial.

David Safavian, former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, was convicted in June of making false statements and obstruction. His attorneys argued Thursday that the charges didn't meet the legal standard for conviction.

They also argued that U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman improperly admitted into evidence e-mails between Abramoff and Safavian. The e-mails discuss two pieces of GSA-controlled property that Abramoff wanted for himself or his lobbying clients.

Many of the e-mails were written around the time that Safavian accepted a weeklong trans-Atlantic golfing trip from Abramoff.

Friedman heard more than two hours of arguments Wednesday but did not issue an opinion.

Defense attorney Albert Lambert maintained that when Safavian told GSA officials that Abramoff didn't have business with the agency, he wasn't lying because the wording was ambiguous. He said Safavian was never advised of the consequences of lying and said his statements didn't hinder any investigations.

"They argue that it's acceptable for a public servant to willfully speak half truths with the intent to deceive," prosecutor Nathaniel Edmonds said. "That's what they're arguing and it should not be the law."

Friedman said he believes allowing jurors to see the e-mails was appropriate, though he acknowledged it was a close call.

"I'm not sure there's anything you said in your briefs or in here that persuades me that I was wrong," he said.

Safavian faces up to five years in prison on each count.