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Representative admits guilt in Abramoff case

Ney apologizes for mistakes, signs plea deal

WASHINGTON -- Representative Robert Ney, an Ohio Republican, agreed yesterday to plead guilty to conspiring to commit multiple official acts for lobbyists in exchange for campaign contributions, meals and luxury travel, sports tickets, and gambling chips. He became the first elected official to face charges in the ongoing influence-peddling investigation of former lobbying powerhouse Jack Abramoff.

After insisting for more than a year that he had broken no laws in his dealings with Abramoff, Ney signed a plea deal Wednesday that was entered into federal court yesterday. Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 27 months in prison.

Ney checked into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic Wednesday and apologized in a statement yesterday for ``serious mistakes" that have brought pain to his family and constituents.

The Justice Department's Criminal Division chief, Alice Fisher, announced yesterday that the department had accepted the plea agreement and filed a criminal information in court.

``Congressman Ney and his coconspirators engaged in a long-term pattern to deprive the public of his honest, unbiased services as an elected official," Fisher said at a press conference.

The court papers made no mention of any agreement on Ney's part to provide evidence against anyone else in the ongoing probe, unlike several other plea agreements prosecutors have reached with Abramoff and his former team members.

Ney admitted to offering legislation at the behest of Abramoff and his team of lobbyists, which included Ney's former chief of staff, Neil Volz. He accepted a stream of things of value in exchange, including luxury vacation trips to Scotland, Lake George, N.Y, and New Orleans, as well as gambling chips, tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, free meals, and tickets to sporting events. Prosecutors valued the trips alone at more than $170,000.

In 2002, Ney sought to insert four separate amendments into an election reform bill to benefit Abramoff's lobbying clients. He further admitted to helping another client win a multimillion-dollar contract to provide wireless communication service to the US Capitol, and to inserting comments into the Congressional Record to help Abramoff purchase a casino cruise line in Florida.

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