The conviction of former #lobbyist Kevin Ring, a one-time ally of uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, was upheld Friday by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a unanimous, 24-page decision that makes for poignant reading, the court's three-judge panel acknowledged that Ring made "powerful" arguments and that "this case is nothing if not close." Nonetheless, the court, in a decision written by Judge David Tatel, ultimately upheld the conviction on so-called "honest services fraud."
Honest services fraud is tricky; in Ring's case, prosecutors had show that Ring gave gifts with an “intent ‘to influence’ an official act” by way of a corrupt quid pro quo. On appeal, Ring challenged how the trial judge set out in jury instructions what was required.
Starting with a literate explication of lobbying, including a reference to the depiction of lobbying in the movie "Lincoln," Tatel noted that "the distinction between legal lobbying and criminal conduct may be subtle, but, as this case demonstrates, it spells the difference between honest politics and criminal corruption."
Following a hung jury the first time around in 2004, a jury convicted Ring on three honest-services counts, an illegal gratuity count, and aconspiracy count. Ring was sentenced to twenty months’ incarceration, but the district court, observing that his case “presented challenging and novel questions of law,” stayed that sentence pending appeal.