Former Cochran aide faces charge in Abramoff scandal

Court documents filed Thursday say Ann Copland took thousands of dollars worth of event tickets and meals out in Washington from Abramoff and associates at his firm. Prosecutors say the gifts were in exchange for her favors benefiting one of their top clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Charges against Copland were outlined in a legal document called a criminal information, which can be filed only with the defendant’s consent and typically signals a plea deal. The document says Copland understood that Senate rules prohibit staffers from soliciting gifts from lobbyists, but still secretly did so.

“It was a purpose of the conspiracy for defendant Copland to be unjustly enriched by her receipt of things of value, and to conceal these gifts from the U.S. Senate and the people of the United States,” the document said.

Copland worked for Cochran 29 years, then abruptly left his office last spring after Abramoff prosecutors had netted a dozen convictions in the scandal.

Cochran’s office refused to comment on the case Friday.

Campaign finance records show that Abramoff, his associates and his clients gave Cochran at least $82,500 in campaign donations during the years in question, from 2001 to 2004. But there is no indication from the documents that Cochran, a Republican, knew of Copland’s behavior or is being investigated.

Clarion Ledger
2/22/9