DOJ Lawyer Disbarred in Connection to Abramoff Scandal

July 7, 2011 12:33 pm

Three years after pleading guilty to violating conflict of interest laws, the former U.S. Department of Justice lawyer involved in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal has been disbarred, Legal Times reports.

Robert E. Coughlin II was the former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Criminal Division at the DOJ, the division which oversaw the probe into the Abramoff lobbying bribery case.He pleaded guilty in 2008 to accepting thousands of dollars in sports tickets, restaurant meals and other gifts in exchange for helping clients of lobbyist Kevin Ring, who was a co-conspirator in the Abramoff scandal. Coughlin, who had been under interim suspension since June 2008, was removed from the District of Columbia bar Thursday morning.

Coughlin and Ring became friends in the early 1990s while both working as staffers for John Ashcroft, who was then a Missouri senator, the Washington Post reported in 2007.

Coughlin helped Ring secure an extra $7.3 million for the Choctaw Native American tribe to build a prison on their reservation in Mississippi. The tribe, which DOJ employees determined would ordinarily receive $9 million for such a project, received $16.3 million while Coughlin and Ring were in contact, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by the U.S. in the Ring case last week.

“Bob Coughlin helped on the school and is now looking for tickets to the Wizards…,” Ring was quoted as saying in the same memorandum.

Ring, along with Jack Abramoff and others implicated in the lobbying scandal, spent over $5 million on tickets like these, “either to groom public officials for corruption or to continue the corrupt relationships.”

David Ayres, the former Chief of Staff to Attorney General John Ashcroft, was also cited in the Choctaw case. Ring used these two contacts at the DOJ to obtain “vital information about the jail and overcome the resistance of DOJ career employees,” the court proceeding read.

“…[the lobbying pressure] forced even the most obstinate bureaucrats at DOJ to kick the final decision up to the AG’s office, which is where we knew we could win. And so we did,” wrote Ring in an email quoted in the memorandum. “To put this victory in some perspective, just two weeks ago, the tribe was told not to submit a request for more than $9 million. Moreover, the largest grant given out of this same construction account heretofore was $10 million!!!”

In court filings quoted by LT, lawyers for Coughlin held that he did not regard the tickets and gifts from Ring as bribes. “Mr. Coughlin believed that Ring, through Greenberg Traurig, had access to extra sports and concert tickets when they were available and not being used by others at the firm.”

Coughlin did consulting work for a medical technology start-up after leaving the DOJ, and worked part-time with a group that places environmentally sound products in retail stores, according to LT.

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