From NBC's Joel Seidman
Former congressional aide Neil Volz, who pleaded guilty to conspiring with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to bribe members of congress, was sentenced today to two years probation, 100 hours of community service and fined $2000.
Volz, 36, a former chief of staff to former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), was spared jail time, according to prosecutors, because his cooperation with the Justice Department's investigation was instrumental in their conviction of Ney.
"I am ashamed for what I have done," said a tearful Volz addressing the court just before hearing his sentence from U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle. "I broke the law by putting my interests ahead of the public … I know the difference between right and wrong, and what I did was wrong."
Volz admitted to accepting meals and tickets to sporting events from Abramoff, when he worked for Ney. And Volz, also admitted that when he left congress to work for Abramoff's lobbying firm, he gave Ney and his staff many things of value. In return, Ney advocated for Abramoff's clients.
Prosecutor Kendall Day said that the government could not have prosecuted Ney without the assistance and cooperation of Volz. "The government has clearly viewed you as the key to their case against Congressman Ney," Judge Huvelle said.
Ney is currently serving a 30-month prison sentence. Ney, in pleading guilty to conspiracy and making false statements, acknowledged taking trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from Abramoff in return for official actions on behalf of his clients.
Prosecutors said Volz provided them information about trips paid by Abramoff that Ney went on to Scotland, New Orleans and Lake George, N.Y. Volz was also the government's star witness in the trial of former Government Accounting Office official David Safavian, who also went on the golf junket to Scotland with Ney and Abramoff.
Safavian, 39, was convicted and sentenced to 18-months in prison for lying about his dealings with Abramoff. He remains free on bond pending appeal of his conviction, and his prison sentence was stayed until that appeal. Volz's lawyer, Timothy Broas, said Volz provided photographs and bar receipts from the Scotland trip. Volz also provided investigators information about another ex-chief of staff to Ney, William Heaton, who also pleaded guilty in the scandal.
Abramoff is currently serving a five-and-a-half-year sentence for his conviction in the Florida-based SunCruz Casinos gambling boat fraud case. Abramoff has yet to be sentenced in the Washington lobbying scandal.