Friday, May 24, 2013
Weyhrauch Takes Plea Deal
Federal corruption probe folding as felony charges dropped against former lawmaker
ANCHORAGE—Another major setback for the federal political corruption probe s prosecutors drop federal felony charges against former lawmaker, Bruce Weyhrauch, in exchange for a guilty plea to a state misdemeanor.
The plea deal was submitted the same day the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out former lawmaker Vic Kohring's conviction. Does this mean, then, that these former lawmakers are innocent?
“It doesn’t mean that they're innocent and it doesn’t mean that they're guilty,” said University of Alaska Anchorage political science Prof. Carl Shepro, who’s been following Alaska politics for 23 years.
Shepro watched the federal corruption probe net a dozen of the state's most powerful people. But because of prosecutorial misconduct, the conviction of Sen. Ted Stevens and former Rep. Kohring have been thrown out
“It certainly doesn’t bode well for the justice department,” Shepro said.
Now, the long-standing federal case against former Rep. Weyhrauch ends with the government striking a deal: prosecutors drop four felony charges that Weyhrauch allegedly secretly tried to secure legal work for his law firm from Veco. In return, Weyhrauch pleads guilty to the lesser charge of knowingly working with unregistered lobbyists—a state misdemeanor.
“It doesn’t address the question of whether or not they're guilty of the actions but it does address the issue of whether the legal system protects people by requiring certain kinds of procedures be followed, and if they're not followed you can't depend upon a verdict of guilty,” Shepro said. “But it doesn’t mean they're completely guilt free, no.”
As the federal case folds, some in Alaska wonder what the fallout of this fallen federal corruption probe will be; its effects on the future of oil and Alaska politics remains to be seen.
“There's a crack in the door,” Shepro said. “If there were a lot of Vecos around or Bill Allens, they would be trying to get through the door again.”
An attorney with the Department of Justice Public Integrity Section is representing Weyhrauch, who will be sentenced in Juneau Tuesday morning.
A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment on the plea deal.