By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON - Prosecutors and a defense attorney
argued over former Bush administration official
David Safavian’s credibility Monday as jurors
heard closing statements in the first trial to
emerge from a federal probe of convicted lobbyist
Safavian, the former chief of staff to
then-General Services Administration head Stephen
Perry of Canton, is charged with lying to
authorities and obstructing justice in connection
with his participation in a luxurious golf outing
to Scotland sponsored by Abramoff.
“He chose to lie, he chose to conceal, he chose
to mislead,” prosecutor Nathaniel Edmonds alleged,
reinforcing a theme that Justice Department
attorneys hammered out during the previous eight
days of the trial.
Safavian’s attorney, Barbara Van Gelder,
maintained that her client did nothing wrong and
fully cooperated with government officials and
investigators who asked him about the golf trip.
“He is an innocent man who has been caught up
in this Abramoff fever,” she said during the
proceeding in U.S. District Court. “They’ve taken
a hairline crack — and they’re trying to make it
into a canyon.”
Safavian, 38, was among nine people who went on
the August 2002 trip, which also included Rep. Bob
Ney, R-Heath; Ney’s former aide turned lobbyist
Neil Volz, two other Ney congressional aides,
former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed and
Ney is under investigation as part of the
federal probe of fraud and corruption, but he
insists he has not done anything wrong or illegal.
Abramoff, Volz and several other former
congressional aides and lobbyists have pleaded
guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors.
Prosecutors charge Safavian concealed his
relationship with Abramoff while using his
position at the GSA to provide information,
assistance and other preferential treatment to
Abramoff as the lobbyist sought control of two
agency-administered properties. Safavian, who took
the stand in his own defense earlier this month,
acknowledged he helped Abramoff but denied that he
was violating agency rules or breaking the law in
He testified that he would have revealed his
relationship with Abramoff if investigators had
Prosecutors have described the golf trip as a
reward for Safavian’s help. Safavian wrote
Abramoff a check for $3,100 to pay for his share
of the trip, but prosecutors said that sum
understated his true costs by at least $14,000.
Both the prosecution and defense sought to
bolster their case by invoking Safavian’s former
boss Perry, a business executive who now heads up
the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Edmonds recalled that when Perry testified as
the prosecution’s first witness, he “talked about
moments of truth” when public officials have to
make decisions with ethical implications. “Time
and again Mr. Safavian failed in these moments of
truth,” Edmonds said.
Later, in her closing statement, Van Gelder
said Perry’s testimony did not hurt Safavian.
Instead of describing Safavian as “ambitious”
and “working for two masters,” she said Perry
praised her client as “hard working, very bright,
The jury planned to return to court Tuesday
morning to begin deliberations.