Opening Arguments Begin in Kevin Ring Retrial

Posted October 21, 2010 at 12:48pm

The Department of Justice began its second attempt Thursday to convict former House-aide-turned-lobbyist Kevin Ring on public corruption charges, depicting Ring as a corrupting influence on Capitol Hill in opening arguments for the retrial.

[IMGCAP(1)]Ring, who was indicted in 2008 on charges stemming from the investigation of his former boss, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is accused of providing tickets to sporting events and other gifts to Congressional staff in exchange for assistance for Abramoff’s clients. Ring has denied wrongdoing in the case.

As the retrial opened Thursday, prosecutor Nathaniel Edmonds sought to convince jurors that Ring, along with other members of “Team Abramoff,” had violated the boundaries of legal lobbying.

“This is a case about a team of lobbyists who tried to corrupt the political system,” Edmonds said. He later added: “The defendant’s actions were not just lobbying, they were corruption … They were crimes.”

Edmonds stressed the value of concert and event tickets, meals and other items Ring provided to public officials on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch.

Ring was an aide to former Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) and then-Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.). In his first trial, Ring’s defense team argued that his actions represented “traditional, accepted and perfectly legal” lobbying activities at the time of the alleged crimes between 2002 and 2004.

Ring’s first trial occurred in 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It ended when Judge Ellen Huvelle declared a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

Ring’s defense team is set to make its opening arguments following a lunchtime recess. The trial will continue Monday.

The 15-member jury, which includes three alternates and was selected Thursday, is composed of eight men and seven women.