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Ring Prosecutors: Top Ashcroft Aide Helped Abramoff Client, Didn't Disclose Hoops Tix

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Newscom / CHUCK KENNEDY

Here's the key excerpt:

Briefly, the government believes that David Ayres helped Ring secure government funds for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (the "Choctaw"), specifically funds for a justice center on the Choctaw's reservation. After the decision was made to grant the Choctaw those funds, Ring sought David Ayres's further help to ensure that the Choctaw could award the construction contract for the justice center to a contractor of its choosing. In March 2002, Ring, with Jack A. Abramoff's consent, gave David Ayres tickets to the March Madness NCAA college basketball tournament at the then-MCI Center. The evidence at trial will show that Ring hoped and intended that David Ayres would "pay ... back" Ring and his lobbying colleagues for those and other things of value. (GX 572).

Moreover, in January 2003, Laura Ayres asked Ring for several expensive tickets to a professional basketball game at the MCI Center, telling Ring that she wanted to give them to her husband for his birthday. Ring, with Abramoff's consent, gave Laura Ayres the tickets. On his annual financial disclosure forms for 2002 and 2003, David Ayres did not disclose his receipt of any of those tickets.

To be clear, the question of Ayres's culpability is not directly at issue in the filing, or the case. What's being argued over is the government's decision not to immunize David and Laura Ayres for their testimony in Ring's trial -- something Ring's lawyers had sought, believing that the Ayres' testimony could be exculpatory for Ring. The fact that prosecutors declined to immunize the Ayres's-- thereby causing the couple to signal that they'll plead the fifth -- may be a signal that the government plans to bring charges against the Ayres's, though it hasn't done so at this point.

Ayres is a big fish. After serving as Ashcroft's top aide at Justice, he teamed with his old boss and former Cheney aide Juleanna Glover to found the Ashcroft Group, a law and "strategic consulting" firm, where he still serves as C.E.O. He has known Ring since the late 1990's, when both served on Ashcroft's Senate staff.

Ayres has not responded to TPMmuckraker's requests for comment, one made on Friday and one this morning.

Hat-tip, again, to the Anti-Corruption Republican.