Michael Scanlon filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court April 19, asking for a review of a unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that said neither the trial judge or the appellate court could change the sentence handed down to Scanlon, who pleaded guilty in November 2005 to conspiracy involving bribery, wire fraud and “honest services fraud” and entered into a plea bargaining agreement with the Justice Department before he was sentenced.
Scanlon and Abramoff were at the center of one of the worst corruption scandals ever to hit Washington – an influence-peddling rampage that brought down presidential appointees at the highest levels of government, members of Congress, congressional staffers, a bogus “nonprofit environmental” organization that lobbied for corporate interests, and others. Abramoff and Scanlon stole more than $82 million from six tribes between 2001 and 2003, according to the investigative report “Gimme Five,” issued by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The report found that Abramoff persuaded his tribal clients to hire Scanlon at exorbitant fees for “grassroots support” or access to high public officials, and that Scanlon then kicked back half of the money to Abramoff.
In his plea bargaining deal, Scanlon’s attorneys sought no prison time, pointing out his “extraordinary cooperation” that helped the Justice Department prosecutors convict 21 other people—including Abramoff himself. Scanlon even aided efforts in a Texas money laundering case in which former Republican Congressman Tom DeLay was convicted in November 2010 of money-laundering charges in a state trial, five years after his indictment forced him to resign as majority leader in the House of Representatives. (Former DeLay aide Tony Rudy was recently sentenced to five months in a halfway house and three years of probation for his role in conspiring with Abramoff and others to accept a stream of gifts when Rudy was a staffer and to offer gifts to public officials when he became a lobbyist – all in exchange for legislative favors.)
Scanlon was sentenced by federal district court Judge Ellen Huvelle in February 2011 to a 20-month prison term and $20 million restitution to the victims who he and Abramoff ripped off.
When Scanlon entered his guilty plea, “honest services fraud” included a broad range of activities, including non-disclosure of conflicts of interest. Since Scanlon pleaded guilty to those charges, the Supreme Court 2010 ruling in Skilling v. United States narrowed the scope of criminal liability under the “honest services” law of the federal wire and mail fraud statutes. (Jeffrey Skilling was the Enron CEO who was convicted of 19 corruption charges including honest services fraud.) Under the new pro-corporate decision, individuals can be convicted of honest services fraud only if they have committed bribery or received kickbacks. Scanlon is hoping to take advantage of the new ruling to avoid having to pay restitution to the nations.