WHEELING - This weekend former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney will be a free man after serving 17 months of a 30-month federal sentence.
It also is expected the Ohio Republican will be exercising his freedom of speech soon as a political contributor to the liberal Talk Radio News Service out of Columbus.
Ney is set to be released from federal custody and a Cincinnati halfway house on Saturday, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons information.
Former Ohio Rep. Bob Ney leaves U.S. Federal Court in Washington, Jan. 19, 2007, where he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for his role in a congressional bribery scandal.
Ney has been assigned to the halfway house since late February, the records state.
Prior to that he served almost a year at the the minimum security Federal Corrections Institution in Morgantown.
As a condition of his stay in the halfway house, Ney was required to work at a job. He was hired by his friend, Ellen Ratner, bureau chief for the Talk Radio News Service, who confirmed in March to a Capitol Hill newspaper that Ney was doing research for the news network.
WHAT ABOUT HIS FELLOW INMATE?
When Bob Ney arrived at the Federal Correction Institution in Morgantown, W.Va. on March 1, 2007, "Survivor" television game show winner Richard Hatch had already served seven months of a 51-month sentence in the Morgantown facility for failing to pay income tax on his $1 million prize.
Ney, who was sentenced to 30 months on federal corruption charges, served nearly a year in prison and was released in February into the custody of a halfway house.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Hatch is due to be released on Oct. 7, 2009.
But Ney was prohibited by federal regulations from being on-air until his release. Ratner indicated she planned to use him as a political contributor after he was placed on probation.
Calls to Ratner on Monday were not immediately returned.
Ney could have spent as long as 10 years in prison on charges including two counts of wire fraud, making false statements and violating post-employment restrictions for former staffers - crimes largely attributed to his relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
He received a 30-month sentence in January 2007.
U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle also sentenced Ney to serve two years on probation after his release and to pay a $6,000 fine.
In addition, he was ordered to undergo an alcohol rehabilitation program while in prison for treatment of an acknowledged drinking problem.
Time was knocked off of Ney's sentence after he completed a voluntary alcohol rehabilitation program while at FCI Morgantown.
As chairman of the House Administration Committee, Ney admitted to receiving gifts from those seeking to influence him.
These ranged from a trip to Scotland bankrolled by Abramoff's clients to thousands of dollars in gambling chips that Ney got on two overseas junkets from foreign businessman Fouad al-Zayat, a Syrian-born aviation company owner in Cyprus.
Court documents state that during Ney's tenure as chairman, he and members of his staff solicited and accepted a stream of things of value from Abramoff and his associates.
Among these items was a golf trip to Scotland in August 2002 that was valued at $160,000. There were other trips in 2003 to gamble in New Orleans and a vacation to Lake George, N.Y.
Two members of Ney's staff also faced charges for arranging and accepting graft, but neither saw jail time.
Neil Volz was Ney's former chief of staff who moved on to accept a job with Abramoff.
He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, including wire fraud and violating House rules.
These charges stemmed from his employment both for Ney and for Greenberg Traurig, the lobby firm for which he worked with Abramoff.
Volz was sentenced to two years probation, 100 hours of community service and a fine of $2,000.
Volz received a lesser sentence than sought by prosecutors because of his cooperation in providing evidence against the congressman.
William Heaton succeeded Volz as Ney's chief of staff at the age of 23.
Heaton pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud, admitting to "conspiring with Ney, Abramoff and others to accept pricey vacations, meals, drinks, golf outings, tickets to entertainment events and contributions to Ney's campaign in exchange for actions by the congressman that benefited Abramoff's clients."
As the federal investigation of Ney continued, Heaton agreed to wear an informant's wire during important discussions with Ney.
In the end, Heaton received a sentence of two years probation, 100 hours community service and a $5,000 fine.