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Ex-Deputy of Interior Dept. to Plead Guilty

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Ex-Deputy of Interior Dept. to Plead Guilty

WASHINGTON, March 23 — J. Steven Griles, the second-highest official at the Interior Department during President Bush’s first term, pleaded guilty today to lying to a Senate committee about his ties to Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist who obtained help from the Interior Department for his Indian tribal clients.

Mr. Griles entered the plea shortly after 11 a.m. Eastern time at a hearing before United States District Judge Ellen Huvelle. Sentencing was set for June 26.

Under a plea agreement with Mr. Griles, the Justice Department recommended a five-month jail term and another five months in a halfway house or confined to his home. The maximum sentence for a conviction would have been five years in prison.

Mr. Griles, 59, the Deputy Secretary of the Interior under Gale N. Norton from 2001 to 2004, was a high-profile lobbyist for oil and gas companies before joining the Bush administration. Once in office, he came under scrutiny for continuing contacts with his former industry clients, and then for his relationship with Mr. Abramoff. After leaving the Interior Department, he resumed his former career as a lobbyist.

Mr. Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to charges that stemmed from his lobbying activities, is now in prison. He has cooperated extensively with investigators.

Mr. Griles agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of lying to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Nov. 2, 2005, when he said that he had no special relationship with Mr. Abramoff.

The issue, according to the Justice Department, was that Mr. Griles was involved romantically at that time with Italia Federici, who ran an advocacy group that received donations from Mr. Abramoff and his tribal clients. Ms. Federici introduced Mr. Griles to Mr. Abramoff, and acted as an intermediary between the two men.

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