The former chief of staff to jailed ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) will not have to serve any jail time for his participation in Ney’s dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
Will Heaton, 29, who had been Ney’s chief of staff and had participated in the Congressman’s exchange of legislative favors for bribes from Abramoff, was sentenced to two years probation and a $5,000 fine.
The government had supported leniency in Heaton’s case because he had provided critical assistance in making the case against Ney, including secretly taping conversations with the Congressman.
In a pre-sentencing memo, the government told the judge that “Heaton’s substantial assistance in the investigation and prosecution of Ney was critical to Ney’s decision to admit his involvement in the corrupt relationship with Abramoff.”
As Ney’s chief of staff, Heaton was frequently the point of contact for Abramoff and his lobbying team when they were seeking favors from Ney’s office. Heaton admitted accepting gifts, meals and travel from Abramoff.
The government said Heaton, who was 23 when Ney tapped him for the chief of staff post, was hired by Ney specifically because his youth and inexperience would make him less likely to object to the scheme. Heaton has admitted that he stored cash and other valuables in Ney’s office safe.
Ney is serving a 30-month prison term at a federal penitentiary in Morgantown, W.Va., with a projected release date in May 2009.
— Paul Singer