Judge denies new trial for ex-procurement chief

David Safavian, a former senior administration official, will be sentenced in one month.

The judge overseeing the trial of David Safavian, former head of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy and former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, denied motions for a new trial Tuesday.

Safavian was convicted of obstruction of justice and other charges in June. His lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, had argued that his Fifth Amendment due process rights were violated because he was not warned by federal investigators that the statements he made to them could be used against him in court.

But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman agreed with federal prosecutors that the investigators were not constitutionally required to give Safavian such warnings, even though they usually provide them to subjects they interview.

Van Gelder also had argued that the admission of e-mails between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Safavian as evidence was improper and unfairly prejudiced jurors. In the e-mails, Abramoff and Safavian discussed their 2002 golf trip to Scotland and property owned by GSA.

Friedman responded that Safavian testified about the e-mails in court and frequently explained their meaning and impact to jurors. He said he saw no reason to reconsider the decision he made before the trial to allow the e-mails to be admitted as evidence.

During the hearing for the new trial motion in August, Friedman hinted that he was unlikely to grant the request. He noted he already had thought about the issues and made his decision, but said he would revisit it.

John Weichsel, a criminal defense attorney practicing in state and federal courts in New York and New Jersey, said most attorneys make motions for a new trial after guilty verdicts, but those motions are rarely granted. Filing the motion helps set up arguments for the appeal, Weichsel said, adding that 12 percent to 15 percent of criminal verdicts are reversed on appeal.

Van Gelder has said that Safavian will appeal. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 12. The most serious charge on which he was convicted -- obstruction of justice of an investigation by the GSA inspector general's office -- carries a recommended 15 to 21 months in prison.

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