WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former congressional aide whose wife had an affair with his boss, then-U.S. Senator John Ensign, was sentenced on Wednesday to one year of probation in the only criminal case to result from the 2009 sex scandal.
Douglas Hampton, 50, pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor violation of a law that prohibits former Senate staff members from working as lobbyists for one year after leaving their congressional jobs.
The lobbying job was part of a conspiracy between Hampton and Ensign after the affair unraveled, according to a 2011 report from the Senate Ethics Committee.
At a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Hampton avoided prison with the help of prosecutors, who noted that Hampton had no criminal history and recommended probation.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell told Hampton that he was the only person she knew of to be convicted under the law. "You are unique," Howell said.
Hampton told reporters after Howell sentenced him that he was "very relieved." He joked: "I've always been unique."
He was working as an administrative assistant to Ensign when he found out that his then-wife, Cynthia Hampton, was having an affair with Ensign, who was also married. The two families were close and lived near each other in Las Vegas. The Hamptons divorced in 2011.
Hampton quit his job in May 2008 and began working the same month as a corporate lobbyist for clients later identified as Allegiant Air and NV Energy. Ensign had contacted the companies prior to Hampton's hiring, according to a separate investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee in 2011.
The maximum sentence for Hampton allowed under sentencing guidelines was one year in prison.
Ensign was not charged in the case, though Senate investigators said they found evidence that he conspired to violate the lobbying law and that he tried to assure the Hamptons' silence with a $96,000 check.
The Senate referred Ensign to the Justice Department for possible prosecution in May 2011. He resigned from the Senate a week earlier, and Ensign's lawyers said the case did not merit criminal prosecution.
Ensign should shoulder blame for any wrongdoing, wrote public defender A.J. Kramer, who represented Hampton, in a sentencing memorandum last month.
"The offense was clearly a result of Mr. Hampton's life having been destroyed, solely because of the affair between his ex-wife and Ensign," Kramer wrote.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday. Ensign's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment this week.
Ensign has been working as a veterinarian in Nevada. Hampton said he is living and working in Southern California.
Editing by Howard Goller and Eric Beech