UPDATED and BUMPED: Will Heaton was sentenced today to two years probation, a very fair sentence in my view.
Apparently the judge was mollified by Heaton's extensive cooperation with investigators -- wearing a wire for conversations with Ney and even passing on documents from Ney's office.
Heaton's youth (he's still a ripe 29) was also a factor. As prosecutors wrote in a recent court filing, Heaton was tapped to be Ney's chief of staff at 24 exactly because he was young and unqualified. "Ney intentionally hired and quickly promoted young, inexperienced staffers - who did not receive any formal ethics training from Congress - so that the staffers would have neither the knowledge nor the maturity to question Ney's conduct," prosecutors wrote. And he kept all those young staffers in line by making sure they knew that if they stepped out of line, they'd be cut off from all the lobbyist freebies.
Most of the major cooperators in the Abramoff investigation (such as Ney's prior chief of staff Neil Volz) have yet to be sentenced, as they continue to cooperate with investigators.
- Will Heaton Sentencing Memo (via TPM)
Original post begins here
Will Heaton is a Great American
Aug. 13, 07 12:17 PM
WIll Heaton stood up for Americans and did the right thing. Now he faces jail time.
When Will Heaton went to work for Rep. Robert W. Ney in 2001, he was 23 years old and still in awe of the members of Congress he had come to know years earlier as a congressional page. Within six months, the Ohio Republican promoted the fresh-faced neophyte to be the youngest chief of staff in Congress.
For the next five years, Heaton stuck by Ney, even as the House Administration Committee chairman accepted free meals at super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff's downtown restaurant, sports tickets in his arena skyboxes and luxurious junkets around the world. Heaton accompanied Ney on a golf junket to Scotland with Abramoff, and he helped Ney return the favors to Abramoff.
In 2002 Heaton became the youngest Chief of Staff on the hill. His lawyers, in papers filed with the court, cite Ney's preference for young, inexperienced staff "because they had not received extensive ethics training and lacked the maturity to question him."
Despite Heaton's complicity in Ney's sordid affairs early on, his subsequent cooperation with the FBI was absolutely crucial to making the case against Ney.
But as Ney's political career disintegrated amid revelations of his ties to Abramoff, Heaton became disillusioned and began secretly helping an FBI task force investigating Abramoff. At first, through his attorney, Heaton handed over internal documents from Ney's office to the FBI. Then he recorded colleagues in Ney's office.
Last summer, Heaton began secretly recording his conversations with the six-term congressman, according to documents filed in court last week by the government and Heaton's lawyers. Heaton taped numerous phone calls and wore a hidden wire to a 2 1/2 -hour, face-to-face meeting with Ney that provided "exceptionally important" help to the FBI's investigation of Abramoff.
Heaton's cooperation was crucial because of constitutional obstacles involved in prosecuting a member of Congress, according to a memo by Justice Department attorney Mary Butler.
A congressional aide choosing to wear a wire on his boss is a Washington rarity, according to legal experts -- especially for an aide such as Heaton, whose entire career was spent working in Congress, mostly for Ney.
"The moment I walked into my first meeting with the Justice Department, a huge weight was lifted off my chest," Heaton wrote in an Aug. 1 letter to U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, who is scheduled to sentence him on Thursday. Dreading the role of "tattletale on the playground," Heaton wrote, "I chose to let these grossly unprofessional and immoral actions slide for the sake of acceptance amongst my professional peers. For that, I am ashamed and deeply sorry."
If Scotter Libby gets a free pass after being convicted of lying and obstructing justice, what about a guy like Heaton who instead tells the truth, and facilitates bringing a criminal to justice?
Heaton's sentencing is scheduled to take place next week. He eventually stood up and did the right thing and helped make the case against Ney, and for that this nation should be grateful. Let's hope the judge shows some leniency in Heaton's sentencing.
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