Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful lobbyist at the heart of a far-reaching political corruption scandal, was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday by a judge who said the case had shattered the public's confidence in government.
Abramoff, who fought back tears as he declared himself a broken man, appeared crestfallen as the judge handed down a sentence lengthier than prosecutors had sought.
Over three years, Abramoff has come to symbolize corruption and the secret deals cut between lobbyists and politicians. The scandal shook Pennsylvania Avenue and contributed to the Republicans' loss of Congress in 2006.
“I come before you as a broken man,” Abramoff said at his sentencing before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. “I'm not the same man who happily and arrogantly engaged in a lifestyle of political and business corruption.”
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Already two years into a prison term from a separate case in Florida, Abramoff, 49, will have spent about six years in prison by the time he is released, far longer than expected for a man who became the key FBI witness.
With Abramoff's help, the Justice Department has won corruption convictions against former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, former Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles and several top Capitol Hill aides.
Because of that cooperation, prosecutors were reserved in their comments to the court.
Defense attorney Abbe Lowell portrayed Abramoff as a man who corrupted politicians with golf junkets, expensive meals and luxury seats at sporting events but also gave millions of dollars to charity.
Although Abramoff expressed remorse Thursday, he also has spent his time in prison cooperating with a book that portrays him much differently: as a victim of Washington politics.
The book, “The Perfect Villain: John McCain and the Demonization of Lobbyist Jack Abramoff,” is set for publication this month. It says Abramoff was pressured to plead guilty. The book blames The Washington Post and Sen. John McCain, whose Senate committee investigated Abramoff, for making him the fall guy.
“I never expected that I would have to go to prison,” Abramoff says, “until it became clear that the media could not allow this play to close without the hanging of the villain.”
McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.