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Alaska Lawmaker’s Corruption Conviction Is Overturned
Posted By David Stout On March 11, 2011 @ 1:53 pm In News | Comments Disabled
An appeals court on Friday overturned the conviction of a former Alaska lawmaker on corruption charges, dealing yet another setback to the Justice Department, which has already been embarrassed by its handling of the case against Alaska’s long-time Republican senator, the late Ted Stevens.
The conviction of Victor Kohring, a Republican who served in the state’s House of Representatives, was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the Blog of Legal Times reported . The court said prosecutors were wrong to withhold evidence that might have been useful to Kohring’s defense.
The decision means that Kohring will get a new trial, something he has been seeking for many months, as Main Justice has reported . In a 33-page decision , the three judges on the 9th Circuit panel were unanimous in calling for a new trial. But a third judge went further, writing that prosecutors had acted in “reckless disregard” of their obligations, and that the indictment itself should be dismissed.
Kohring was convicted in 2007 of conspiracy and attempted extortion for taking money from oil executive Bill Allen in exchange for legislative favors while Kohring was in the legislature, from 1994 to 2007. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Kohring was caught up in the wide-ranging investigation that snared Stevens, once one of the most powerful members of the U.S. Senate. Convicted in 2008, Stevens lost his seat in that year’s election. But his conviction was later overturned, on grounds that prosecutors had withheld material that might have helped the defense. Those allegations of misconduct, which apparently led to the suicide of one prosecutor, led to an investigation. (Stevens died in a plane crash last year.)
A lawyer for Kohring, Michael Filipovic, an assistant federal public defender in Seattle, was not immediately available for comment, the BLT said. It said the DOJ declined immediate comment.
The 9th Circuit panel said the trial judge in the Kohring trial, John Sedwick of the District of Alaska, was wrong to conclude that information about Allen’s alleged sexual relationships with teen-age girls was inadmissible. On the contrary, the appeals panel said, that information could have been used by the defense to try to undermine Allen’s credibility. (Allen is serving a three-year term for bribery and tax offenses.)
Allen’s supposed relationships with teen-age girls was a topic on Capitol Hill on Thursday, when Attorney General Eric Holder insisted , in the face of questions from a skeptical Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), that the DOJ’s decision not to pursue sex charges against Allen had nothing to do with his cooperation in the Stevens prosecution.
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