David Ayres says he will invoke Fifth Amendment as Justice Department refuses to immunize him
From a document filed today in the case of USA v. Kevin A. Ring:
The government recently told Ring that it would not immunize David or Laura Ayres, or Laura Blackann. David Ayres was Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's Chief of Staff and Laura Ayres was and is his wife. Briefly, the government believes that David Ayres helped Ring secure government funds for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (the "Choctaw"), specifically funds for a justice center on the Choctaw's reservation. After the decision was made to grant the Choctaw those funds, Ring sought David Ayres's further help to ensure that the Choctaw could award the construction contract for the justice center to a contractor of its choosing. In March 2002, Ring, with Jack A. Abnramoff's consent, gave David Ayres tickets to the March Madness NCAA college basketball tournament at the then-MCI Center. The evidence at trial will show that Ring hoped and intended that David Ayres would "pay ... back" Ring and his lobbying colleagues for those and other things of value. (GX 572).
Moreover, in January 2003, Laura Ayres asked Ring for several expensive tickets to a professional basketball game at the MCI Center, telling Ring that she wanted to give them to her husband for his birthday. Ring, with Abramoff's consent, gave Laura Ayres the tickets. On his annual financial disclosure forms for 2002 and 2003, David Ayres did not disclose his receipt of any of those tickets. Neither Ayres has been willing to speak to the government, which consequently has not idea what either would say about those events...
Here, Ring does not and cannot proffer the Ayreses' likely testimony and therefore cannot establish that the government's failure to immunize them constitutes a distortion of the judicial factfinding process. In his motion, Ring insists that he has a "good faith basis to believe that Mr. Ayres and Ms. Ayres would each provide critical exculpatory testimony," yet in the next paragraph writes that the Ayreses have told him that they will invoke the privilege against self-incrimination. Ring's "good faith basis" is little more than hollow speculation made even less reliable by the Ayreses invocation of their Fifth Amendment rights. In any event, even assuming argendo that David Ayres would testify, for example, that Ring did not expressly link the tickets and other things of value with an official act, or that David Ayres did not receive benefits with that understanding -- and the government has not reason to believe that he would so testify -- David Ayres's mens rea is irrelevant, as the case will not present the question of whether David Ayres joined the charged conspiracy.
Prosecutors connected Mr. Ayres to the Choctaw jail at a status conference on August 20, 2009. According to the Kevin Ring indictment, Mr. Ring predicted that Mr. Ayres would "get the joke" shortly before funding for the Choctaw jail increased from $9 million to $16.3 million. At the August status conference, prosecutors said Team Abramoff lobbyist Todd Boulanger would testify that to "get the joke" was a somewhat vague term meaning to receive something of value from Team Abramoff in return for access, taking an official action or granting some other favor. Prosecutors clearly believe that the official action involved increasing the funding amount for the Choctaw jail. It isn't clear what prosecutors think Mr. Ayres got in return.
The fact that prosecutors refused to grant immunity to Mr. and Mrs. Ayres suggests to us that the Justice Department may yet file criminal charges against the couple. The good news for the Ayreses is that the government isn't alleging (yet) that they were part of the conspiracy.