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Attorneys for indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and business partner Adam Kidan insist their clients acted appropriately in their 2000 purchase of Fort Lauderdale’s troubled SunCruz Casinos in a deal that resulted in fraud and conspiracy charges. Miami attorney Neal Sonnett, who represents Abramoff, said the longtime Republican lobbyist who formerly worked for Greenberg Traurig, the Miami-based law firm, was a “victim.” “All I can tell you is that Jack understood that he was involved in a legitimate business deal, and he was not involved in the negotiations, was not even present at the closing,” Sonnett said in an interview Friday. “He only signed documents that were faxed to him with assurances that everything was in proper order,” Sonnett said. “So I think Jack was as much as victim as anybody else in this case, perhaps more because now he has to defend himself against criminal charges for something that he did not do.” A federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale accused Abramoff and Kidan last week of using a counterfeit document to convince lenders that they had transferred $23 million to the seller of the day-cruise gambling business. The document, prosecutors allege, resulted in the release of $60 million in loans to be applied toward the cruise line’s purchase. Kidan made his initial appearance Friday in Miami before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber, who accepted a not guilty plea and released him on a $500,000 signature bond. “It is our position … that there is no wrongdoing on his part,” Hollywood attorney Martin Jaffe told reporters outside the courthouse. Jaffe also suggested that murdered SunCruz operator and fast food entrepreneur Gus Boulis somehow was culpable in the government’s case against Abramoff and Kidan. “It’s apparent that if Gus Boulis was alive today, he’d be a co-conspirator,” Jaffe told reporters without elaborating. Asked if he knew who killed Boulis, Jaffe replied, “I wish I knew the answer to that.” Boulis was shot to death in a nighttime street ambush in Fort Lauderdale as he drove home from a business meeting in February 2001. The killing remains unsolved. Jaffe said Kidan was questioned by authorities about Boulis’ death and cooperated from the beginning of the investigation. The federal indictment against Abramoff and Kidan makes no mention of Boulis’ killing months after the SunCruz sale. No trial date has been set in the fraud case assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul Huck in Miami. Abramoff, who was traveling in Los Angeles when the indictment was unsealed, was also allowed to await trial at home. He surrendered late Thursday and appeared before a federal magistrate in Los Angeles the next day. Abramoff intends to plead not guilty and vigorously defend himself at trial, Sonnett said. The lawyer appeared to rule out any cooperation deal in the Florida case in exchange for assistance in the investigations surrounding Abramoff’s lobbying activities in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Indian tribes. “Nobody has offered that, and I have not requested that, and as far as I’m concerned my job is to defend Jack on these charges and to help ensure a verdict of not guilty,” Sonnett said. Abramoff was expected to return to his home outside Washington, D.C., and plead innocent at an arraignment to be set in Miami late this month or early next month. Sonnett said his client was being released on a $2 million personal surety or signature bond co-signed by his wife, brother and father, plus a $250,000 corporate surety bond secured by 15 percent cash. The government did not ask for pretrial detention. Two veteran Assistant U.S. Attorneys, lead prosecutor Lawrence D. LaVecchio and Paul F. Schwartz, are representing the government in the case.

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