Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that former Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch is not entitled to have the government reimburse $663,000 in legal fees he spent fighting corruption charges that eventually were dismissed.
In a 20-page response to the demand for payment made by Weyhrauch last month, the Justice Department said Weyhrauch failed to qualify under a 1997 law that allows for such reimbursement when a prosecution is "vexatious, frivolous or in bad faith."
Weyhrauch pleaded guilty to a state misdemeanor in March, admitting that he aided and abetted an oil industry official whom he knew had failed to register as a lobbyist -- the now-imprisoned chief executive of the Alaska oil-field services company Veco, Bill Allen.
In return for Weyhrauch's plea, four federal corruption felonies, including bribery and attempted extortion, were dismissed. A state judge handed him a three-month suspended jail sentence and fined him $1,000.
Far from being a prosecution marred by misconduct, Weyhrauch, in his guilty plea in state court, acknowledged that he committed many of the misdeeds that formed the basis for the federal charges, the prosecutors said.
Weyhrauch is a lawyer, and while the Legislature was in session in 2006 and hotly debating an oil-tax matter being lobbied by Allen, Weyhrauch asked Allen to send some of Veco's legal work his way. Weyhrauch then set up a meeting in Anchorage with Allen and a Veco vice president to "discuss a mutually beneficial relationship." At that restaurant meeting, secretly recorded by the FBI, Allen lobbied him on the oil-tax legislation as he lobbied Allen for work, the prosecutors said.
"This factual assertion was the centerpiece of the federal indictment, and his guilty plea arising from this conduct belies Weyhrauch's claim that the dismissal of the indictment against him means that he 'prevailed' in this matter," the prosecutors said. "The fact that Weyhrauch pleaded guilty to a state misdemeanor as opposed to the federal crimes for which he was originally indicted is irrelevant."
In his pitch to U.S. District Judge John Sedwick to get his fees paid, Weyhrauch said prosecutors committed misconduct by failing to turn over evidence that would have helped his case. When the material was finally delivered, his lawyers said they found evidence that an FBI agent lied to a grand jury and that prosecutors knew it.
That material has been filed under seal and can't be independently verified. But prosecutors dismissed the assertion as having no bearing on the question of fees.
Without discussing the merits of the alleged perjury, they said the prosecution must consider "as an inclusive whole, rather than as atomized line-items." And in the big picture, Weyhrauch himself admitted many key allegations against him were true, the prosecutors said.
Reach Richard Mauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4345.