"Operation Polar Pen" Winds Down with Kott, Kohring Pleas, Sentences
Now comes the post-mortem. Was more good than bad achieved? Did the miscarriages of justice outweigh the actual justice?
Former state lawmakers Pete Kott and Vic Kohring have pleaded guilty for their roles in the Veco political corruption scandal and have also received their sentences.
They will not be serving any more time behind bars.
Today's events in federal District Court in downtown Anchorage appear to be the final court appearances for defendants in the Department of Justice's eight-year-long public corruption probe.
That certainly was the impression left in a news conference by U.S. Attorney for Alaska Karen Loeffler, although she made it clear some decisions could still be pending in Washington, D.C.
By anyone's reckoning, it has been a tale of twist and turns.
Four years after his initial convictions in the Veco scandal -- concerning oil taxes and a natural gas pipeline -- former Rep. Kohring was back in the spotlight.
Kohring, a free man, says he intends to stay in Alaska.
"Absolutely. This has been home for half a century, so I'm staying. You bet. Well, if I’d known all of this, I’d have brushed my teeth beforehand."
Kohring served 12 months in federal prison, and former House Speaker Kott 17, before an appeals court ordered new trials due to misconduct by the prosecution.
They formally entered their guilty pleas to one count each in the bribery scandal, in exchange for other charges being dropped.
Federal Judge Ralph Beistline accepted their plea deals with the government, which include no further jail time.
But Beistline chastised them, including Kohring for his association with top Veco executives who pleaded guilty to bribing legislators.
"You were associated with Bill Allen and Rick Smith, two real disreputable characters. And you knew they were unscrupulous. You knew it. It wasn't a secret. ... I’ve heard it said that the measure of your character is what you do when no one is watching, at least what you do when you think no one is watching. And for whatever reason, you lost sight of your values and you abandoned your principles for this period of a time. And for what? A pittance."
Kohring chose not to speak in court, while Kott admitted what he did in the infamous Suite 604 of the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, was “perhaps” wrong.
With the Kott and Kohring cases closed, Loeffler says Operation Polar Pen has come to a close.
"An investigation that ended up in 10 convictions, and six people that were legislators, and you know, one of those was a misdemeanor, but that's 10 percent of the Alaska legislature. That's the biggest public corruption case that's ever been done here. And I think that and I hope that we have cleaner government and more open government because of it. And that is a success."
So, Operation Polar Pen is done. Now comes the post-mortem. Was more good than bad achieved? Did the miscarriages of justice outweigh the actual justice? In this mixed bag, what exactly is the mix?