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The Miami federal judge overseeing the conspiracy and fraud trial of former Greenberg Traurig lobbyist Jack Abramoff clashed with his defense attorney Tuesday over the trial date, eventually compromising halfway and settling on Dec. 12. U.S. District Judge Paul Huck had wanted to start the trial of Abramoff and his associate, Adam Kidan, in October. Both Miami lawyer Neal Sonnett, who represents Abramoff, and Hollywood attorney Martin Jaffe, who represents Kidan, said they may file motions to have the two men tried separately. But federal prosecutors are sure to oppose severing the cases, and Jaffe acknowledged later that there is little chance that Judge Huck would approve the motion. “The advantage is the one who went second would get a preview of what the government has,” Jaffe said. “But it would surprise me if it wasn’t together. The government is vehemently opposed to severance.” Jaffe said later that Abramoff and Kidan, once business partners, will not testify against each other. “Neither one is flipping,” he said. The case centers on charges that the two men used a counterfeit document to convince lenders they had transferred $23 million of their own money to buy the SunCruz casino boat fleet in 2001 from restaurant, entertainment and hotel tycoon Gus Boulis, who later was murdered. The document allegedly resulted in the release of $60 million in loans to be applied toward the purchase. Abramoff is also under investigation in Washington, D.C., by a federal grand jury and by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee in connection with $66 million he received from Indian tribes to lobby for their casinos. The spectacular fall of Abramoff, a top Republican lobbyist with close ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, has reverberated throughout the Washington establishment and the Republican Party. In the South Florida criminal case, Abramoff pleaded not guilty Monday through Sonnett. Abramoff, who lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington, has not been required to show up at any court hearings and is free on bond. Kidan pleaded not guilty two weeks ago before U.S. Magistrate Barry Garber in Miami. Kidan, who lives in New York, appeared in person because he was voluntarily surrendering — unlike Abramoff, who was arrested and processed by police in Los Angeles. Kidan is also free on bond. At Tuesday’s hearing, Huck appeared intent on fast-tracking the case. He said he wanted to set an earlier trial date of Oct. 17 or Oct. 31, hoping to finish the trial before the holidays. He estimated the trial would take less than four weeks. But Sonnett wanted the trial held next March or April. He said his schedule is full with other trials until December and also that he needs to review hundreds of thousands of documents produced by a plethora of civil lawsuits filed against Abramoff in various parts of the country. All are related to the 2001 bankruptcy of Fort Lauderdale-based SunCruz Casinos. “It is my professional responsibility to review those documents,” Sonnett said. “All are related to this case in one way or another.” Huck disagreed: “The fact that the company went bankrupt is completely irrelevant to this charge.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence LaVecchio, who is prosecuting the case with Paul Schwarz, said he recently turned over an inventory listing 20,000 to 25,000 documents to defense lawyers. LaVecchio said he soon will turn over all those documents to the defense, even some sealed and privileged documents. “I think I’ll be able to work them over and turn them over to Mr. Sonnett,” he said. Sonnett told Judge Huck he is not concerned about being unable to obtain discovery materials. “I don’t see any discovery problems,” Sonnett said. Court documents have revealed that both Abramoff and Kidan are undergoing mental health treatment and counseling. Abramoff is being treated for stress, and Kidan is receiving medication and treatment for depression. But Sonnett ruled out an insanity defense for Abramoff.

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