Ex-Senate aide faces jail for violating probation

January 17, 2012 - 2:55 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former aide to Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran convicted in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal is facing 10 weekends in jail after bringing a steak knife to a halfway house.

Ann Copland's attorney, Drewry Hutcheson Jr., said in a telephone interview that his client didn't mean to bring a weapon into the facility where she was ordered to spend 75 days on a corruption charge. Hutcheson says Copland's husband, concerned she wasn't getting enough to eat in the halfway house, brought her a steak to eat in the car while taking her to an Oct. 20 psychiatrist appointment, and she inadvertently left the knife and fork in her pocketbook when she returned.

Copland was kicked out of the halfway house in violation of her probation. U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay recommended the jail time Tuesday as a substitute for the remainder of her sentence, but it must be approved by a U.S. District Court Judge Richard Roberts, who also could revoke her probation and sentence her to prison.

Copland pleaded guilty three years ago to swapping legislative favors for more than $25,000 in event tickets and restaurant meals from Abramoff's firm, one of 21 people convicted in the scandal. Roberts sentenced her last year to the time in the halfway house, 75 days of home detention, a $3,000 fine and two years' probation. The probation office reported that Copland, who is employed and living with her parents in Vienna, Va., is in compliance with the rest of her sentence, having fulfilled her home detention and making current payments on her fine.

The probation office recommended the three-day weekends in jail; prosecutors and Copland agreed. Kay said that it seemed a first-time violation of the halfway house's rules should have been handled with a reprimand, but he added that because the facility refused to allow her to return and all parties agreed on the jail time, it would be a suitable substitute.