Former aide to Sen. Ensign receives probation
A judge sentenced a onetime top aide to former Sen. John Ensign to a year's probation Wednesday for violating federal lobbying restrictions.
Doug Hampton, Ensign's former administrative assistant, said after Wednesday's sentencing he was "very relieved."
Hampton, 50, was originally charged with seven felony counts of violating a one-year ban on former staffers lobbying the Senate. In a deal with prosecutors in June, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the law.
Hampton resigned his job four years ago after learning that his wife and Ensign were having an affair. Just a few days after leaving the Nevada Republican's office, he lobbied it on behalf of Allegiant Air, an airline headquartered in Las Vegas.
Hampton, a tall, bearded man with a shaved head, told U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell prior to sentencing that he wanted to "express my apologies for the choices and decisions that I made." In a deep voice, he asked for the judge's kindness in sentencing him.
Hampton's lawyer, public defender A.J. Kramer, told the judge that his client was in the "depths of despair" when he violated the law. "His life was crumbling around him," Kramer said.
Howell expressed some sympathy for Hampton.
"You were betrayed by your friend and by your wife," said Howell, who called it a "sordid" story. Ensign and Hampton were close friends even before Ensign hired him.
But the judge said that Hampton's violations of the one-year lobbying ban "were particularly disturbing to my mind."
Howell waived a fine because of Hampton's inability to pay.
Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of two years' probation and 200 hours of community service.
Ensign resigned last year, as the Senate Ethics Committee was concluding an investigation of the senator's conduct in seeking to conceal the affair. The committee issued a scathing report that called for investigations from the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission. Ensign has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Ensign, 54, a veterinarian before he was sworn into the Senate in 2001, has returned to animal care since his resignation.
He did not immediately respond Wednesday to messages at the Las Vegas veterinary practice where he works.
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