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Jurors take back verdict in Abramoff-related case

Jurors undid their verdict Thursday in the trial of an ex-lobbyist caught up in the Jack Abramoff influence peddling scandal, prompting the judge to send the panel back for more deliberations.

On the eighth day of reviewing the evidence in the case against Kevin Ring, most of the case appeared to be headed toward a mistrial after jurors told U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle they were unable to reach a verdict on seven charges and that they no longer agreed on the verdict they had reached on the eighth charge earlier this week. They have not said what that verdict was.

In a trial that began five weeks ago, Ring is accused of bestowing thousands of dollars worth of tickets and meals on the offices of then-Republican Reps. John Doolittle of California and Ernest Istook of Oklahoma, and on Justice Department officials, in return for congressional appropriations and other assistance for Abramoff’s clients. It is those seven charges on which jurors said they feel it is impossible to reach agreement.

The eighth charge relates to Ring’s role in arranging a job that paid $96,000 to Doolittle’s wife. On Tuesday, the jurors said they had a verdict on that count. On Thursday, the jurors told the judge they were divided on it again.

"Go back" and deliberate some more on the eighth count, the judge told the panel.

Out of the presence of the jury, the judge said it was her intention to declare a mistrial on the seven charges. There were inconclusive discussions between the judge and lawyers from both sides about possibly retrying the case.

If jurors are unable to reach a verdict on all of the counts, it would mark a setback for federal prosecutors in a long-running criminal investigation that sent Abramoff and former Republican Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio to prison and led to guilty pleas by 15 other people.