Opinion: Griles did the crime but not the time

"J. Steven Griles was convicted earlier this year of withholding information from the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2005 about his meeting Jack Abramoff. Facing a possible five year jail sentence, Griles has enlisted a small army of the well-connected who are petitioning the sentencing Judge for leniency, while Griles himself is asking for community service -- part of which time would be seved working with the American Recreation Coalition and the Walt Disney Company.

Griles is scheduled for sentencing on June 26. The career lobbyist is the second-highest-level Bush administration official to be caught up in the ongoing Department of Justice investigation of former Republican Party uber-lobbyist, the currently imprisoned Jack Abramoff. Griles, the former Interior Deputy Secretary who, according to SourceWatch, "oversaw the Bush administration's push to open more public land to energy development," doesn't think he deserves jail time. Evidently this is one situation in which Griles prefers not to follow Abramoff's lead.

In an effort to avoid doing time, Griles and his legal team have developed a two-pronged strategy: Line up a host of A-listers to send letters to D.C. District Judge Ellen Huvelle seeking leniency; and personally petition the judge to be sentenced to a fine, three months home confinement, and 500 hours of community service with the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), a Washington-based non-profit organization formed in 1979, and the Walt Disney Company.

"It's not difficult to imagine that Griles may soon be working for the ARC," said Scott Silver, the executive director of Wild Wilderness, an Oregon-based grassroots environmental organization who has been tracking these matters for years. "It is, after all, a perfect match-up since they already enjoy the benefits of what has been more than a 20 year working relationship."

Griles "was involved in efforts to help two of Abramoff's clients -- the Louisiana Coushatta tribe and the Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Michigan -- fend off casino proposals from rival tribes and may have done so while engaged in employment negotiations with Abramoff, recent news reports have said. Griles has said through spokespeople that he did not play a major role in endeavors to aid the tribes," The Hill's Josephine Hearn has reported.

"Although Griles initially denied doing any favors for Abramoff's casino-owning Indian tribe clients, court records show that Griles inserted himself into several casino cases at Interior," Greenwire's Dan Berman recently pointed out. "In March, Griles pleaded guilty to withholding information from the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2005 about his meeting Abramoff through Italia Federici, president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy. Griles was dating Federici at the time." Earlier this month, Federici pleaded guilty to tax and perjury charges and agreed to cooperate with the government's wide-ranging Abramoff probe."

Get the Story:
Bill Berkowitz: J. Steven Griles did the crime but doesn't want to do the time (Media Transparency 6/19)

Selected Leters:
Bill Anoatubby | Jim Cason | Donald Hodel | Neal McCaleb | Gale Norton | Ross Swimmer

More Letters:
Exhibit Volume 1 (PDF 266 pages)

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