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After six days of testimony from mostly government witnesses, defendant David Safavian took the stand June 2 in his trial over allegations that he concealed his business relationship with Jack Abramoff from federal investigators. Calm and composed during almost a full day on the stand in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Safavian admitted to a few lapses in judgment, but he vehemently denied hiding his relationship with Abramoff. “I have nothing to hide about Abramoff,” said the former chief of staff at the General Services Administration. Safavian’s decision to take the stand was a surprise and came after the defense’s government-contracting expert was largely prevented from testifying by Judge Paul Friedman. That made Safavian the third defense witness, after his wife, Jennifer. “He wanted to tell his story,” says his defense lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder. Safavian acknowledged that “in hindsight” he probably should not have forwarded some e-mails to Abramoff, especially those containing internal agency deliberations. He said that he had no reason to believe Abramoff low-balled the $3,100 cost of the now-notorious Scotland golf junket sponsored by Abramoff that included Safavian. (The prosecution alleges that Safavian should have owed much more than that.) And he added that any discrepancies that he told investigators were due to gaps in memory and that he had always been eager to cooperate. Safavian testified that he will always consider Abramoff a friend, but he still believes Abramoff “was not a contractor exchanging goods and services with the agency for money.” Under cross-examination, Safavian conceded little more to prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg’s string of pointed questions. “Is this your typical hotel dining room?” Zeidenberg asked, displaying a photo of the lavish eating quarters at the Old Course Hotel at St. Andrew’s, Scotland. “Yes,” Safavian replied, but he added later, “Judging by the pictures, I certainly wasn’t missing a meal.” Safavian’s appearance isn’t without risk (think how well it worked for Kenneth Lay), but it does raise the question: Will it force prosecutors to call Abramoff to the stand in rebuttal? The disgraced lobbyist wasn’t expected to testify, but then again, neither was Safavian.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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