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Rangel Found Guilty|of 11 Ethics Violations

WASHINGTON (CN) - Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., was found guilty by a House subcommittee on Tuesday of 11 ethics violations, including failing to report rental income on federal tax returns and using a rent-stabilized residential apartment as a campaign office for more than 10 years.

"The committee found conviction by clear and convincing evidence," subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said as she recited the group's findings.

Rangel, 80, who represents New York's 15th District, walked out of the ethics trial on Monday and was not present for the decision. He was reelected for his 21st term on Nov. 2.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said he and the other subcommittee members could not reach a consensus on one of the 13 counts against Rangel, and two of the counts were rolled into one, resulting in a total of 11 violations.

The split vote was over an allegation that Rangel's involvement with the Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York constituted an improper gift because the organization gave Rangel an office and an archivist.

Rangel was found guilty of violating solicitation, gift and credibility rules by using congressional letterhead to solicit donations for the Rangel Center, using a rent-stabilized apartment designated "for living purposes only" as a campaign office for more than a decade, failing to report rental income from a beach villa in the Dominican Republic on federal tax returns, and failing to accurately report income on annual disclosure forms.

After the full House ethics committee holds a sanctions hearing, it may issue Rangel a letter of reprimand or a formal censure.

Rangel claimed on Monday that he had been denied his right to counsel because the subcommittee insisted on completing the hearing before the end of the session in December.

Rangel said he could not afford to pay $1 million for counsel after already having spent $2 million on legal fees, and said the committee denied him the opportunity to set up a legal defense fund. The subcommittee denied his request to delay the proceedings until he could get a lawyer, and the trial continued without him.

During the hearing, the committee's chief counsel, Blake Chisam, said he found no evidence of corruption in Rangel's behavior and that the representative's misconduct was largely attributable to "sloppy" accounting practices.

The ethics committee launched a 21-month investigation into Rangel's alleged misconduct in 2008, interviewing close to 50 witnesses and sifting through nearly 28,000 pages of documents.

Rangel stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in March and was formally accused of violating House rules in July.

"I'm hopeful the end of the day we will be able to begin an era of transparency and accountability, a new era of ethics, that will restore the credibility of this House," McCaul said.

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