The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with federal prosecutors Wednesday and held that former state Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch can be tried for failing to disclose his efforts to get a job with Veco Corp. even if state law did not require such disclosure.
The decision by the San Francisco-based court sends the case back to Anchorage for trial.
Weyhrauch, a Juneau Republican, was indicted in May 2007 along with former House Speaker Pete Kott over efforts by Veco and its chief executive, Bill Allen, to pass tax legislation favored by the oil industry. Weyhrauch, a lawyer, was trying to get work from Veco, and that job-seeking effort got tangled up in Veco’s lobbying for the oil-tax deal.
In a pretrial hearing in Anchorage, U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick ruled that federal prosecutors couldn’t use his failure to disclose his job seeking as evidence to prove he defrauded Alaskans of honest services because state law didn’t clearly require such a disclosure.
The government appealed and Kott went on alone to trial and was convicted.
In its decision, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit said that all Americans have a right to the honest services of their public officials, free from secret conflicts of interest, regardless of the limits of the law in any particular state.
“Accordingly, the government may proceed on its theory that Weyhrauch committed honest services fraud by failing to disclose a conflict of interest or by taking official actions with the expectation that he would receive future legal work for doing so,” the appeals judges said.
The judges also had harsh words for the prosecution over a procedural matter. It took the government three tries before it complied with a law that requires a U.S. Attorney to certify that a pretrial appeal is being made for legitimate reasons and not just to delay the trial. The judges threatened to reject government appeals in the future if prosecutors fail to comply with that law.