Former Alaska Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, awaiting trial on federal corruption charges, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in his case and overturn an appeals court decision that directly applied the federal mail-fraud statute to his case.
At issue is one count in the four-count indictment handed up against Weyhrauch in 2007. It charged him with violating the federal mail fraud statute by depriving Alaskans of his honest services when he served as a legislator in 2006.
According to the charges, Weyhrauch, a Juneau Republican, solicited legal work from the oil-field service company Veco Corp. at a time when Veco was pushing hard to win support for lower oil taxes in the Legislature.
The government said Weyhrauch never disclosed his conflict of interest. Weyhrauch said he didn't have to because state law didn't specifically require such disclosure.
While the trial court in Anchorage agreed with Weyhrauch, prosecutors appealed just before the start of his trial. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with prosecutors, saying legislators had a duty to disclose such conflicts. The court reasoned that even if a state had weak ethics laws, that was no reason for its citizens to be deprived of the honest services of their public officials.
Weyhrauch acknowledged that two other circuit courts had made similar rulings, but said that another two had a different standard: They required a state law violation before the mail fraud statute could be used in a criminal case.
Weyhrauch asked the Supreme Court to clear up the "confusion" between the different circuits and to adopt the more limited standard.