Ohio congressman to plead guilty of criminal charge in corruption probe

Thursday, September 14th 2006, 10:11 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, is expected to plead guilty as early as Friday to at least one criminal charge in an election-year congressional corruption investigation, Republican officials said Thursday night.

Ney, whose ties with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff have long been under scrutiny by prosecutors, has consistently denied all wrongdoing. He announced earlier this summer he would not seek re-election, a step he took reluctantly and at the prodding of party leaders fearful of the loss of his seat.

The Republican officials who described the legal developments said they did not know whether Ney intended to resign his seat in the House. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of pending legal proceedings.

Calls to Ney's congressional office were not immediately returned. The Justice Department declined comment.

The Republican officials said they were not certain whether Ney intended to admit guilt to more than one charge.

It was not clear precisely what offense would be involved in any plea agreement, although one official said Ney would admit to having filed a false disclosure report with the House of Representatives.

Any guilty plea would likely renew public attention on a corruption investigation that has unfolded slowly in the months leading to the midterm elections.

Ney would become the first member of Congress to plead guilty in the probe. A second lawmaker, Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., is at the center of a separate investigation involving alleged bribery. He has not been charged and denies all wrongdoing.

Word of the legal pleadings came as Republicans in Ney's sprawling eastern Ohio district selected State Sen. Joy Padgett as a replacement candidate for the Nov. 7 ballot. She will run against Democratic rival Zack Space for a seat that Ney has held for a dozen years _ and insisted as recently as summer that he would not voluntarily give up.