A former high-level House Transportation Committee aide to U.S. Rep. Don Young is asking a Washington, D.C., judge to sentence him to probation and not prison for his role in the corruption scandal involving super lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Mark Zachares, a former University of Alaska Anchorage basketball player who served as special counsel to Young, R-Alaska, pleaded guilty in 2007 to accepting gifts from Abramoff in return for providing inside information. His sentencing was delayed while he cooperated with federal authorities, but with the Abramoff investigation winding down, he's scheduled to learn his punishment on Nov. 22.
Though Zachares' plea bargain suggested he receive up to two years in prison, on Monday he asked U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle to grant him probation, as she had for two other congressional aides who pleaded guilty after participating in Abramoff-related conspiracies.
Unlike those two aides, Zachares did not help prosecutors convict anyone, he acknowledged to the judge. But that doesn't mean he didn't try, he said.
"The Court should know, however, that for more than three years Mr. Zachares has cooperated with the Government to the best of his ability," his lawyer wrote. "Mr. Zachares has spent substantial time meeting with Assistant United States Attorneys, FBI agents and with lawyers from the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice to provide them whatever information and assistance that was requested. There is no suggestion that his cooperation was not candid, forthright or complete. For reasons beyond Mr. Zachares' control, no prosecutions arose from his cooperation and the Court should not hold that against him."
According to court documents, Zachares was a labor and immigration official in the Northern Mariana Islands when he first encountered Abramoff, who lobbied for the U.S. possession. In 2002, after Zachares returned to the mainland, Abramoff helped him land a job on Young's committee -- a transaction that Young has never explained. Zachares first worked as counsel on a subcommittee, then as special counsel to Young himself. In a memo to fellow lobbyists, Abramoff said Zachares was "pulling our load inside."
In return for providing information, "Team Abramoff" rewarded him with more than $30,000 in tickets to sporting events, a luxury golf trip to Scotland and $10,000 in cash.
To read the complete article, visit www.adn.com.