A federal judge has sentenced one-time Washington power broker Jack Abramoff to an additional four years in prison and ordered him to pay $23 million in restitution for his role in an influence-peddling scandal that rocked the political scene in the nation's capital.
Describing himself as "a broken man," a despondent Abramoff, 49, asked U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle for a lenient sentence as his wife and children looked on.
"I've fallen into an abyss, your honor, and I don't quite know how to get out," said the convicted lobbyist, who wept throughout the hearing. "The pain for me and my family has been intense. ... I will recount this to the final days of my life."
When he entered into a plea agreement to charges of fraud, bribery and tax evasion in January 2006, Abramoff admitted that while he worked as a lobbyist, he received kickbacks, duped American Indian tribes in four states by charging exorbitant fees for his services to increase his profits and bribed public officials with decadent gifts, meals and trips.
At the hearing, victims from two of the tribes that Abramoff lobbied for said that he had defrauded their communities and ruined their tribes' names.
In handing down the 48-month sentence, Huvelle acknowledged Abramoff's cooperation with the investigation, and the more than 350 letters of support filed with the court that painted him as a loving father who was involved in his community and generous with donations.
But she also called his crimes "very serious" and said his "conduct spanned many years ... and got much worse over time. ...This is necessary to act on respect for the law."
He had faced a possible maximum of 11 years in prison.
Abramoff began serving a nearly six-year sentence stemming from a separate Florida conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion case involving the purchase of SunCruz casino boats in November 2006. He will serve today's sentence concurrently with the sentence in the Florida matter, for a total of approximately six years behind bars.
He is currently housed at the federal prison in Cumberland, Md.
As part of the plea agreement on the Washington charges, Abramoff has provided vast information into political corruption, with guilty pleas coming from former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, former Interior Department Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles and a host of other officials ranging from staffers to even the former deputy chief of staff of the Justice Department's criminal division.
Once one of the most popular lobbyists in Washington's notorious "Power Alley" of K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Abramoff wined and dined clients and Congress members at his now-defunct restaurant Signatures, which was across the street from the Justice Department, and was known for treating Congress members to extravagant trips, including one to a golf course in St. Andrew's, Scotland.
"It is hard to see the exact moment that I went over the line but, looking backwards, it is amazing for me to see how far I strayed and how I did not see it at the time," Abramoff wrote in an e-mail letter to Huvelle, filed with the court Wednesday. "So much of what happens in Washington stretches the envelope, skirts the spirit of the rules, and lives in the loopholes. But even by those standards, I blundered farther than even those excesses would allow."