(CN) – Former GSA chief of staff and White House official David Safavian will not be retried after asserting that “prejudicial” evidence caused his conviction in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal in 2002, the D.C. Federal Court ruled.
Safavian claimed that evidence of the cost of a charter flight to Scotland for a golf trip in August 2002 inappropriately led the jury to convict him, but the appeals court said admission of the evidence was not in error.
Prosecutors told the jury that the flight cost $90,000 without instructing jurors on how to value airfare, Safavian said, a move that was “devastating to the defense.” But the court said the jury was given sufficient ethics training materials to make the call.
Safavian was found guilty in June 2006 of obstruction and making false statements to investigators.
In securing approval for the overseas trip with Abramoff, Safavian failed to tell an ethics advisor at the GSA about his illegal dealings with the lobbyist, which included secret meetings to secure two GSA properties.
Safavian said the ethics adviser’s opinion was immaterial because the adviser was not a decision-maker, but the court ruled that the opinion was still an official action, making Safavian’s comments material.
Safavian also failed to mention the trip in a financial disclosure form in May 2003, after the ethics officer sent him a reminder that “You must report the gift of free transportation” on the form. Safavian had told the GSA that he paid Abramoff for the trip in full.
Safavian also argued that his statement to FBI agent Jeffrey Reising, that he “would not have been able to help Abramoff with GSA-related activities if he wanted to,” because he was new at the agency was immaterial because Reising knew Safavian was lying. But the court disagreed, ruling that Reising’s knowledge did not affect the materiality.
Judge Paul Friedman ruled that Safavian was not entitled to acquittal or a new trial.