Alaska’s former Speaker of the House, Pete Kott, has signaled that he is accepting a plea-bargain in a far-reaching corruption case, a sign that a scandal that brought disgrace and tragedy from Juneau to Washington, D.C., is nearing an end at last.
In court filings, Kott said he intends to change his not guilty plea to a bribery charge, one of the four federal charges he is facing. The court papers make no mention of Kott’s intentions regarding the other counts, conspiracy to commit extortion, extortion, and wire fraud, The Alaska Dispatch said.
But Kott’s comments made it clear that he is negotiating with prosecutors. “I’m just trying to bring finality to this whole thing,” Kott said Thursday in an interview with The Dispatch. “It’s been five years.” His lawyer declined comment, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Anchorage was not immediately available for comment, The Dispatch said.
Kott’s problems, like those of others ensnared in the scandal, arose from his dealings with Bill Allen, a wealthy Alaska oil man who was cozy with the state’s powerful politicians. In 2007, Kott was convicted of conspiracy, extortion and bribery for taking money from Allen.
By mid-2009, Kott was in the middle of serving his six-year sentence when the Justice Department, confronted with its own errors in the investigation, asked that Kott be released pending a review. Soon thereafter, an appeals court overturned the convictions and Kott won the right to a new trial — a right he is now forgoing in the interests of putting the episode behind him at last.
The biggest target for prosecutors was Sen. Ted Stevens, a the longest-serving Republican in Senate history and one of the most powerful lawmakers in Washington. He was convicted in federal court in Washington in 2008 of failing to report thousands of dollars in gifts, including improvements to his home, from Allen and others. Stevens lost his bid for re-election after the conviction, but the verdict was eventually overturned because of misconduct by prosecutors.
Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010. Last August, prosecutors decided not to bring charges against his son, State Sen. Ben Stevens, also a Republican, who had come under scrutiny for his dealings with Allen (see Main Justice’s report).
Meanwhile, the retrial of Victor Kohring, a Republican in the Alaska House of Representatives whose conviction on conspiracy and attempted-extortion charges was overturned because prosecutors withheld evidence that might have helped the defense (see our report), is to begin in a few weeks.
By any measure, the entire Alaska story has been an embarrassment, even a tragedy, for the Department of Justice. Some critics of the DOJ asked whether Allen, the wealthy oil man, was allowed to escape charges of molesting a teen-age girl in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors — an accusation that the DOJ denied.
Finally, two prosecutors in the case of Ted Stevens are facing accusations of professional misconduct for withholding evidence that might have helped the defense. A third prosecutor who came under fire took his own life.