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Griles due for sentencing in Jack Abramoff scandal

J. Steven Griles, the former deputy secretary of the Interior Department, deserves prison time for lying to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee about his relationship with Jack Abramoff, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

In a 54-page filing, the Department of Justice said Griles was given many opportunities to tell the truth. During a deposition with the committee and at a public hearing, the former Bush administration official repeatedly denied being influenced by Abramoff, who bilked tribal clients out of millions of dollars.

But federal investigators uncovered a different story. The filing details how Griles sought to influence decisions at the department to favor Abramoff's clients, and how he sought to secure favors from Abramoff in exchange.

The relationship was assisted by Italia Federici, an associate of former Interior Secretary Gale Norton who has pleaded guilty for her role in the scandal. But since it was concealed from the Senate committee, Griles "perverted" the panel's investigation, prosecutors said.

Instead of telling the truth, "Griles made the conscious choice to take the calculated risk to lie to, and withhold material information from, the Senate committee in furtherance of his personal agenda -- saving his lucrative lobbying practice from the taint of the Abramoff corruption scandal," the filing stated.

Despite the harsh language, prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of just 10 to 16 months -- half of which would be spent in home confinement -- and a $250,000 fine. Prosecutors explained that they found no evidence that Griles accepted money or gifts from Abramoff

There was plenty of evidence that Griles helped Federici, his former girlfriend, secure monetary benefits. Between March 2001 through May 2003, her organization accepted about $500,000 from Abramoff and his tribal clients, prosecutors said.

Griles also sought favors for three other "close" female friends, according to the filing. In one case, he asked Abramoff to consider hiring "Person D" -- a former Senate staffer -- who "has one client from New [M]exico who has large sums and wants into Indian gambling."

"She will make you lots of money," Griles told Abramoff in a December 2003 e-mail.

Griles pleaded guilty in March to lying to the Senate about his relationship with Abramoff. In a filing that cite his years of public service and 91 letters from colleagues -- including former Bureau of Indian Affairs head Neal McCaleb -- his lawyers argue against a prison sentence.

Based on his "history and character" Griles wants just three months in home confinement, 500 hours of community service and a "reasonable" fine, his lawyers said. They recommend he work with two non-profit organizations, one which works with underprivileged youth and another with wounded soldiers of the Iraqi war.

"Mr. Griles' unique and valuable skills and experience should be put into action for the community rather than wasted during a period of incarceration," the filing stated.

Judge Ellen S. Huvelle isn't bound to accept either recommendation and can impose a higher sentence. She has scheduled a sentencing hearing on June 26 at the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C.

Relevant Documents:
DOJ Sentencing Memorandum | (June 15, 2007) Griles Sentencing Memorandum (June 8, 2007) | Criminal Information (March 23, 2007)

Other Documents:
Federici Charge (June 5, 2007) | Federici Factual Information (June 5, 2007)

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Abramoff Report:

Pre-2001 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | Undated | Finance

Relevant Links:
Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy -