Former lobbyist and congressional staffer Kevin Ring was sentenced to 20 months in prison, with 30 months probation to follow, by a federal judge on Wednesday for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal.
Ring’s lawyers had been hoping for a sentence of probation. At a hearing in a courtroom in D.C. federal court, federal prosecutors sought to portray Ring as “number two in the team Abramoff scandal” and sought a sentence of 50 months in jail. That sentence would have been longer than the sentence received by Abramoff himself. A federal prosecutor argued that there “are sentencing disparities, but they are not unwarranted.”
U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle disagreed with the sentence the Justice Department sought, finding that what Abramoff did was “so far worse than anything that is before me now” and that the public officials like former Rep. Bob Ney should bear more of the blame.
The judge shot down some of the government’s rhetorical flairs, at times drawing laughter from the audience of Ring’s supporters, like after the federal prosecutor argued that Ring’s activities contributed to public cynicism of the political system.
“What do you say about campaign contributions?” the Huvelle retorted. She added that while the government may have an “idealized vision” of how Washington works, there were “a lot of factors that contribute to cynicism.”
A federal prosecutor argued that Ring’s lobbying conduct “was not business as usual in Washington” and that what he did is “not what Washington lobbyists do.”
Ring’s lawyer argued that giving Ring a longer sentence couldn’t send much of a message “when Jack Abramoff is going to a book signing at Tucker Carlson’s house” and coconspirator Michael Scanlon is arguing he should get to keep his money.
Ring was in high spirits before the hearing, greeting supporters by helping them find seats in the crowded courtroom and even giving water to a thirsty woman. Once the hearing got underway, he mostly kept his head in his hands until it was time for him to deliver an emotional plea to the judge.
“I am very ashamed and embarrassed to be here under these circumstances,” Ring said. “It is my own conduct that brings me to this point.”
He said that while he alone bore responsibility for his conduct, he did not see how his conduct undermines the public trust, chalking up many of the emails presented in court that portrayed him, in his words, as a “spoiled and arrogant punk who had gotten way too big for his britches” to bad humor.
The judge asked him to explain what creates the system that could lead to the scheme in which he was implicated.
“It’s not a good system,” Ring said, adding that now that he’s been working for nonprofits, he’s learned how disadvantaged they are by not having a lobbyist to work for them or big money in their pockets.
Ring noted that his daughter wasn’t even born before his ordeal started and that she’s celebrating her sixth birthday today.
“While everyone makes mistakes, mine have followed me forever,” Ring said. “I have been humbled beyond anything I could have ever imagined.”