Weyrauch wants feds to pay his legal fees

FLAWED PROSECUTION: Ex-Juneau legislator wants the $663,000 he paid in fees.

April 15, 2011 

Convicted former Alaska state legislator Bruce Weyhrauch is asking a judge to award him $663,000 in legal fees for his defense against federal charges that were dropped last month.

Weyhrauch, a lawyer and Republican who represented Juneau for two terms in the House, says the federal prosecution was so flawed that he should be entitled to his costs.

In 2007, a federal grand jury indicted him on fraud, bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges over his undisclosed solicitations of legal work from the oil-field service company Veco at the same time that Veco was lobbying for reduced oil taxes in the Alaska Legislature.

Weyhrauch maintained he had no legal duty to disclose the solicitations and took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last year, the court agreed with his interpretation of the law.

In a plea deal last month, Weyhrauch pleaded guilty to a state misdemeanor of knowingly working with an unregistered lobbyist -- Veco chief executive Bill Allen -- and was given a $1,000 fine and three-month suspended jail sentence. The federal charges were dropped.

Like other defendants in the massive federal corruption investigation, Weyhrauch argued that prosecutors deliberately failed to turn over evidence favorable to him. Those were the grounds cited when the Justice Department moved to dismiss the corruption conviction of former Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008, and what led the judge in the Stevens case to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate contempt charges against prosecutors. That investigation is still pending.

One of Weyhrauch's attorneys, Doug Pope, said in court filings that some of the material belatedly turned over by a new team of prosecutors contains evidence that an FBI agent lied to a grand jury, and that prosecutors knew it. Pope initially made the allegations last month, filing them under seal because they involved secret grand jury testimony.

But as part of his motion for legal fees, Pope wrote that his allegations involved contradictory sworn statements by an FBI agent over the meaning of an intercepted conversation between Weyhrauch and Allen on May 24, 2006.

In one version, according to the motion, the agent said Weyhrauch warned Allen to stay away from an unnamed person because the person was corrupt. In the other version, the agent said Weyhrauch warned Allen to stay away from the same unnamed person because he suspected the person was working with the FBI.

One version makes Weyhrauch look innocent, the other guilty, Pope argued. The two versions occurred about 11 months apart, with the "guilty" version occurring in front of the grand jury that indicted Weyhrauch, while the "innocent" version appeared in an affidavit for a warrant, according to Pope's filing.

The unnamed person matches the description of former Rep. Tom Anderson, who was both convicted of bribery and worked as an FBI informant for a brief time. Anderson is serving a five-year sentence.

In seeking the legal fees, Pope said Weyhrauch was billed for 1,600 hours of attorney work at $250 an hour, plus 2,000 hours of paralegal help at $100 an hour. Expenses totaled another $63,000. Pope didn't say how much of that total Weyhrauch actually paid.

It's extremely rare for judges to order payments for legal fees to defendants. Stevens, reportedly billed more then $1 million for his defense, never sought money back from the government despite the ruling by his trial judge that prosecutors engaged in misconduct. There has been no such ruling in Weyhrauch's case.

Citing federal law, Pope argued that defendants are entitled to attorney's fees when a judge determines that the conduct of prosecutors was "vexatious, frivolous or in bad faith.

"In the end, all the government ever had for evidence was that Weyhrauch had committed an obscure state crime that had never been prosecuted before," Pope said.

The Justice Department has not yet responded to Weyhrauch's motion, which was filed Thursday.


Reach Richard Mauer at rmauer@adn.com or 257-4345.

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