U.S. v. Ring

Decision Date25 June 2009
Docket NumberNo. 08-CR-274 (ESH).,08-CR-274 (ESH).
Citation628 F.Supp.2d 195
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Kevin A. RING, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Michael Joseph Ferrara, U.S. Attorney's Office, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Richard A. Hibey, Miller & Chevalier Chartered, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE, District Judge.

Defendant Kevin A. Ring faces a ten-count indictment for paying illegal gratuities in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 201(c)(1)(A); honest services wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1346; conspiracy to pay illegal gratuities and commit honest services wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; and obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1512(b)(3) and 1512(c)(2). Ring has filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, and on April 9, 2009, the Court heard arguments on this motion. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND
I. THE ALLEGATIONS

On September 5, 2008, a federal grand jury indicted Ring for acts relating to his work with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The indictment alleges that from 1993 through 1999, Ring worked on the staff of a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, on the staff of a U.S. Senate subcommittee, and as the executive director of a Republican Party caucus in the House. (Indictment ["Ind."] at 2-3 ¶ 7.) Around December 1999, Ring joined a law/lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. ("Firm A"), working as a lawyer and lobbyist under the direction of Jack Abramoff. (Id. at 3 ¶ 9.) Around January 2001, Ring followed Abramoff to another firm in Washington ("Firm B"), where Ring was employed until October 2004. (Id.) Ring and Abramoff lobbied government officials, their staff, and other federal employees on behalf of their clients, which included Native American tribal governments that operated, or were interested in operating, gambling casinos. (Id. at 3 ¶ 11.)

In March 2002, a Native American tribe based in New Mexico ("the New Mexico tribe") hired Firm B at $50,000 per month for lobbying services, and Ring subsequently persuaded the tribe to enter a $2.75 million contract with Capitol Campaign Strategies, LLC ("CCS"), a public relations firm run by former Firm B employee Michael Scanlon. (Id. at 2 ¶ 6, 9 ¶ 27, 41 ¶¶ 4-5.) Abramoff and Scanlon had a pre-existing profit-sharing relationship whereby Scanlon made payments to Abramoff; a similar arrangement later extended to Ring as well, who would receive five percent of Scanlon's total revenues from the tribe. (Id. at 9 ¶ 28, 41-42 ¶¶ 4-7.)

Abramoff used funds from his lobbying practice and from Scanlon to provide gifts and other things of value to government officials or their staff. (Id. at 9 ¶ 29.) From 2000 through 2004, Ring and Abramoff provided things of value (e.g., tickets to music and sporting events, meals and drinks, golf outings, travel, and un-reimbursed sponsorship of political fundraisers) to three U.S. congressmen (identified as "Representative 4," "Representative 5," and Robert Ney), their staffers, and officials in the executive branch. (See generally id. at 10-28.) Abramoff and Ring also sought to find a job for the wife of Representative 5 (see, e.g., id. at 17 ¶ 78, 18 ¶ 84, 22 ¶ 117), with Abramoff ultimately putting her on his payroll for approximately 19 months at $5000 per month drawn from Firm B's funds. (Id. at 23 ¶ 123, 25 ¶ 131, 27 ¶ 145.)

During this time period, the three congressmen took (or agreed to take) actions that were favorable to Ring and Abramoff's various clients, such as

▄ inserting, or resisting the removal of, multimillion-dollar earmarks into appropriations bills (id. at 11-13, 21-22, 24);

▄ contacting the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") to seek an investigation of a woman advocating labor reform that would adversely affect Abramoff's clients in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) (id. at 15);

▄ contacting executive branch officials in support of appropriations requests (id. at 15-16, 32-33) ▄ opposing legislation regarding Internet gambling (id. at 17);

▄ contacting the DOI regarding tribal governance issues and a petition for tribal recognition (id. at 25-27);

▄ signing a letter opposing a proposed commission to study Indian gaming (id. at 28); and

▄ meeting with the New Mexico tribe (id. at 29).

Also during this time, executive branch officials took (or agreed to take) actions that were favorable to Ring and Abramoff's various clients or, in some cases, favorable to Abramoff personally, such as

▄ calling the DOI and a U.S. senator to gain support for a settlement agreement benefiting the New Mexico tribe (id. at 29);

▄ placing the New Mexico tribe on a list of people with whom the federal government could work (id. at 30);

▄ awarding a $16.3 million DOJ grant for the construction of a tribal jail and waiving the DOJ's requirement that the contract to construct the jail be competitively bid (see generally id. at 31-36); and

▄ seeking expedited review and approval by INS of pending applications from an Abramoff-owned religious school, Eshkol Academy, seeking to admit foreign students (id. at 37).

In late 2002, the New Mexico tribe complained to Ring and Abramoff about Scanlon's performance on his contract. (Id. at 42 ¶ 7.) From 2003 through February 2004, news stories began to appear regarding the fees charged by Abramoff and Scanlon for lobbying and public relations services to four tribal clients. (Id. at 42 ¶¶ 8-9.) In February 2004, Firm B retained outside legal counsel to conduct an internal investigation into Abramoff's lobbying activities, and this investigation later extended to the activities and practices of Ring and other members of Abramoff's lobbying team. (Id. at 42-43 ¶ 11.)

From March through August 2004, Firm B's outside counsel interviewed Ring. (See generally id. at 43-45 ¶¶ 12-19.) During these interviews, the outside counsel informed Ring that anything he said might be communicated to entities investigating Abramoff's lobbying activities, including the DOJ and the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs ("the Indian Affairs Committee"), and that there were pending congressional and DOJ investigations into Abramoff's employment of Representative 5's wife. (Id. at 43 ¶ 12.) Subsequently, Ring stated that he indeed believed that outside counsel, or other lawyers for Firm B, were providing information to the DOJ or the Indian Affairs Committee, and that he was aware that Firm B and Representative 5's wife had received federal grand jury subpoenas. (Id. at 44 ¶ 16.) Ring also falsely told Firm B's outside counsel, among other things, that he did not recall conversations about getting a job for Representative 5's wife, and that there was no agreement to give Ring a monetary stake in Scanlon's contract with the New Mexico tribe. (Id. at 44 ¶ 17-18.)

II. THE COUNTS

Count I of the indictment charges Ring with conspiring, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, to pay illegal gratuities in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 201(c)(1)(A) and to commit honest services wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1346. (Ind. at 6-7 ¶ 20.) Count II, which incorporates many of the conspiracy allegations, charges Ring with paying illegal gratuities to DOJ official Robert Coughlin by giving him eight tickets to basketball games "for or because of Coughlin's contacting an INS employee to request "expedited review and approval" of Eshkol Academy's application to admit foreign students. (Id. at 38 ¶ 2.) Counts III through VIII, which incorporate all of the conspiracy count's factual allegations, charge Ring with committing honest services wire fraud by devising a scheme to defraud "the United and its citizens of their right to the honest services" of certain legislative and executive branch officials, "performed free from deceit, fraud, concealment, bias, conflict of interest, self-enrichment, and self-dealing ...." (Id. at 39 ¶ 2.) The six counts are premised upon six separate interstate wires: one email exchange between Ring and Coughlin, four email exchanges between Ring and John Albaugh, Representative 4's chief of staff, and one bank wire involving a $5000 check drawn from Firm B's bank account and deposited into an account controlled by Representative 5's wife. (Id. at 39-40 ¶ 3.) Count IX charges Ring with obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3), for making false statements to Firm B's outside counsel and thereby preventing "the communication of information" to the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") relating to the commission of the possible offenses of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and payment of illegal gratuities. (Id. at 45 ¶ 19.) Count X similarly charges Ring with obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2), for making false statements to outside counsel so that counsel would provide misleading information to the grand jury and the Indian Affairs Committee. (Id. at 45-46 ¶ 2.)

ANALYSIS
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

An indictment need only contain a "plain, concise and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged...." Fed.R.Crim.P. 7(c). However, "an indictment is not required to set forth all the evidence the Government plans to present." United States v. Palfrey, 499 F.Supp.2d 34, 45 (D.D.C.2007) (citing United States v. Haldeman, 559 F.2d 31, 123-25 (D.C.Cir.1976)). Rather, it is "sufficiently specific where it (1) contains the elements of the offense charged and fairly informs the defendant of those charges so that he may defend against them, and (2) enables him `to plead acquittal or conviction in bar of future prosecutions for the same offense,'" United States v. Safavian, 429 F.Supp.2d 156, 158 (D.D.C.2006) (quoting Hamling v. United States, 418 U.S. 87, 117-18, 94 S.Ct. 2887...

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