Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Trial Dates Set for Vic Kohring and Pete Kott

The Federal government announced this morning that dates for new trials by former Alaska legislators Vic Kohring and Pete Kott have been set:

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline on Wednesday set a tentative trial date of Oct. 24 for Victor Kohring and of Nov. 28 for Pete Kott. Both trials are to take place in Anchorage.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court overturned both men's convictions and ordered new trials for them after determining prosecutors had withheld evidence.

Both Kohring and Kott, who were represented separately by expensive, high-profile attorneys in their 2007 Anchorage trials, have qualified for public defenders in their new trials.


On Monday [June 13th], federal court magistrate judge John Roberts agreed to have Kohring represented by the federal public defender’s office. Kohring has said ever since his release that he has been all but penniless, relying on friends for transportation.

It seems to be a common state for Kohring, who famously slept in his Juneau office to save on his expenses. His defense at trial was that he was accepting a gift from a friend when he got money to pay for his daughter’s Girl Scout uniform and Easter presents from Bill Allen, head of the now-defunct oil field services company VECO.

After Kohring pleaded poverty at his Monday morning hearing, Roberts said the Seattle public defender who represented Kohring before the 9th Circuit, Michael Filipovic, could continue as his attorney at government expense. Speaking by telephone, Filipovic said he would likely need appointment of a second attorney for a retrial, but that issue was left unresolved.


Former Alaska House Speaker Pete Kott came closer to a retrial on corruption charges Friday [June 3rd] when a judge appointed an attorney to represent him at government expense and set an aggressive schedule for pretrial motions.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Roberts of Anchorage ordered motions filed by June 20 but acknowledged the date could slip significantly if Kott's defense waives the normal 70-day speedy trial rule. Otherwise, a trial date in August, assuming prosecutors continue to press the case, would dictate the quick timetable.
Roberts directed prosecutors and the defense to meet by Thursday and, if possible, reach consensus on a retrial date.

The hearing followed rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said Kott of Eagle River and fellow former Republican House member Vic Kohring of Wasilla didn't get fair trials in 2007 because federal prosecutors failed to turn over favorable evidence. The appellate judges sent the cases back to U.S. District Judge John Sedwick for new trials.

Kohring's case is trailing Kott's through the legal system -- the 9th Circuit formally sent Kohring's case back to Anchorage on Thursday, starting his 70-day clock a few days after Kott's began ticking on May 31.

Kott's 25-minute teleconferenced hearing circumnavigated the country, with Kott appearing from Juneau, where he rents an apartment, his attorney in her office in Seattle, and prosecutors in the courtroom and on the phone from Washington, D.C.

Responding to questions from Roberts, Kott said he couldn't afford to hire his own attorney. He owns the 2001 truck that he used in his flooring business, doesn't work and isn't looking for a job. He isn't married, has two credit cards which he keeps current, and swore he hasn't recently stashed away any cash. Among his IRA, life insurance and other long-term investments, he told Roberts he could raise about $200,000, but Roberts didn't direct him to cash out those assets.
Roberts appointed the lawyer who won Kott's appeal, Sheryl Gordon McCloud of Seattle, to represent him. She had asked that a second Seattle attorney, experienced in trials, also be appointed, but Roberts said he thought the law allowed two appointments only in capital cases.
Since the above was written, Sheryl Gordon McLeod withdrew, being replaced by Federal public defender, Rich Curtner, who has since been replaced by Peter Carmiel of Seattle. So Kott is on his third attorney in less than a month, in series though, not in parallel.

Kott served over a year on his initial sentence, Kohring almost a year. Both were financially devastated by their convictions. Based on my talks and emails with Vic since his release, he has also been emotionally devastated. What sort of an impact the change in their circumstances since the 2007 trials may have, there is no doubt that in these retrials, the defense will want to know far more about the relationship of former Veco owner Bill Allen and law enforcement agencies in regard to the widely published allegations of sexual abuse of minors surrounding Allen's name. Some of the evidence withheld from defendants in the first trials had to do with how the Feds dealt with Allen's messes:
A three-judge panel from the San Francisco-based appellate court said prosecutors withheld critical information from Kohring's defense attorneys, the same issue that resulted in dismissal of the corruption conviction of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008.

In the case of Kohring, a seven-term conservative Republican from Wasilla, the appeals court ruled 2-1 that the errors by government prosecutors weren't flagrant enough to warrant dismissing charges outright.

The dissent was from Judge Betty Fletcher, who said the entire case should be thrown out over "egregious violations of basic prosecutorial responsibilities." She said Kohring should be freed "from further anguish and uncertainty."

Chief among the undisclosed evidence, the judges said, was the Anchorage Police investigation of the FBI's chief witness over allegations he had sex with underage girls, then induced at least one to lie about it under oath. Kohring should have been allowed to use that evidence to challenge the credibility of the witness, multimillionaire Anchorage businessman Bill Allen, the court said.

Kohring began serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence in June 2008. He was freed on bail a year later to pursue his appeal.

A Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said attorneys there were reviewing the 9th Circuit order before deciding their next move.

The prosecutions of the Alaska public corruption cases were directed by the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, which underwent a wholesale shake-up after the Stevens case. Three of its former attorneys, along with two prosecutors loaned to the investigation from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage, are under investigation for criminal contempt by a special prosecutor appointed by the judge who tried Stevens. A fourth former Public Integrity attorney committed suicide.
These trials have made Alaska history. For several reasons. Whatever history they have made, they certainly did not end the corruptibility of Alaska politicians. A longtime friend in Juneau called last night, describing the utter callousness toward Alaskans shown by the oil companies and mining concerns in the way the lobbying just went down in the special session on coastal zone management. If the Feds spent five percent of the money on surveillance of our legislators and governor during the now-ended farcical session, as they had on Polar Pen, we might have us an entirely new set of corruption trials.

Then again, maybe not. In the post-Citizens United realm of campaign financing, lobbyists, big businesses and politicians have been given much greater freedom in how the latter are manipulated than Bill Allen had when he did what he had to with our lawmakers.

Judge Ralph Beastline will preside over the retrials of Vic Kohring and Pete Kott.


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Philip Munger said...

Thanks, ozmud!