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Abramoff Cohorts Offered Immunity To Testify Against DeLay At Sentencing

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Newscom / CD1

Scanlon and Rudy were convicted in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and have since been cooperating with federal prosecutors in the wide-ranging Abramoff investigation. Scanlon pleaded guilty to bribery charges and agreed to pay back nearly $20 million he bilked from American Indian tribes. Rudy pleaded guilty to conspiracy after he took $86,000 from Abramoff while working for DeLay.

DeLay (R) was convicted on money-laundering charges in a Texas court in November. He faces up to 99 years in prison, although his sentence is expected to be closer to the minimum sentence of five years of probation. Judge Pat Priest will sentence him at a hearing set to begin at 10 a.m. ET.

DeLay's lawyer is planning on calling character witnesses for DeLay at the hearing, including former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R), who was speaker when DeLay was majority leader, according to the Houston Chronicle.

His lawyers have also submitted 30 testimonial letters about DeLay, from friends including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Northern Marianas Islands Gov. Benigno Fitial and eight current U.S. congressmen, all from Texas. You can read selected letters here.

"For two decades in Congress, you were a steadfast champion of a strong and secure Israel," Netanyahu wrote in a December letter sent to DeLay.

The Northern Marianas Islands was a player in the Abramoff scandal. Abramoff lobbied for the commonwealth, which was fighting Congressional efforts to reform its labor laws, and flew several congressmen to the islands. DeLay was instrumental in helping Abramoff and his client thwart reform.

"During Tom's tenure in the United Stales House of Representatives, he was particularly helpful to the people of the Northern Marianas Islands," Fitial wrote. "When our islands were under attack by some Members of Congress, Tom flew to the CNMI to learn firsthand the plight of our people."

Congressmen who wrote on behalf of DeLay include Reps. Louis Gohmert, Joe Barton, Ralph Hall, Kevin Brady, Ted Poe, Sam Johnson, Michael Burgess and John Carter, all (R-TX).

Gohmert's letter, among the longest, attacked the media.

"The media called him 'the Hammer,' because they did not know how he was behind closed doors nor how he dealt with people he led," Gohmert wrote. "Yet ... he could not have been nicer."

Gohmert also argued that DeLay did not benefit personally from any money laundering, but was instead trying to "help elect people who shared his heightened concerns for America's future. Although those individuals are of a different politcal party than your own, the motivation was selfless," he wrote in his letter to the judge.

Other congressmen asked the judge to consider DeLay's years of public service in his sentencing, and Brady asked that DeLay not be sentenced until after he appeals his conviction.

DeLay has been free on bond.

[Ed. note: This post has been updated with letters from DeLay's supporters.]

Late update: Neither Scanlon nor Rudy testified for the state, but Hastert did testify on DeLay's behalf, according to local reports.