Friday, May 24, 2013
Kohring Conviction Overturned, Court Orders New Trial
Pete Kott hopeful his political corruption conviction will also be overturned
ANCHORAGE—Former lawmaker Vic Kohring's political corruption conviction has been overturned. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the government withheld key evidence that could have helped Kohring's defense.
Now, Pete Kott, another former lawmaker convicted of accepting bribes from former oil company chief, Bill Allen, is hoping for a similar ruling on his own case.
Allen was the government's star witness in netting the political corruption convictions of a dozen of Alaska's most powerful people, including Sen. Ted Stevens, whose conviction was overthrown.
“These cases were really one person's word against the other,” said Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Kott’s attorney.
The court ruled the jury should have heard evidence that could have questioned the credibility of Allen’s word. Because the government withheld key evidence that could have helped Kohring's case, the court threw out his conviction and ordered a new trial.
“The violations here started in the Kott case and they continued in the Kohring case and then culminated in the Ted Stevens debacle,” said Kohring’s attorney, Corey Endo, Asst. Federal Defender. “And given all of that, we were hopeful that the court would dismiss the charges outright. Given the number and nature of the violations, we weren't surprised with the results. We were disappointed that the court remanded the case for a new trial, though.”
Kott and his attorney are hoping for a similar outcome.
“Many of the issues resolved in the Kohring case are the same issues raised in the Kott case,” McCloud said. “So hopefully it means those issues about the government hiding evidence that was favorable to Kott will be resolved in the same way.”
Some of the hidden evidence includes the Anchorage police investigation of Allen's alleged sexual misconduct with under-aged girls.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski asked Attorney General Eric Holder in Thursday’s appropriations subcommittee meeting why the investigation never led to a prosecution.
“I have the same questions that she does,” McCloud said. “The Ninth Circuit's decision is not there to answer those questions. But she and the Anchorage Police Department certainly raise valid questions about why Bill Allen was treated so specially.”
But Kohring's attorney says the government withheld other evidence, as well
“It was much more extensive in this case,” Endo said. “It went to Bill Allen's memory of what had occurred, whether money was given on specific occasions, how much money was given and had to do with Rick Smith having a differing memory of key events, so the sex investigation and Bill Allen's efforts to manipulate witnesses was certainly part of it but not the extent of withheld evidence.”
Laura Sweeney, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, declined to comment on the ruling other than to say, “We are reviewing the opinion.”