Judge emphatic in decision that Weyhrauch not entitled to costs

CORRUPTION: Former lawmaker sought to recoup attorney fees.

July 28, 2011 

Former Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch of Juneau, convicted on a state corruption charge, was turned down Thursday in his bid to get the government to pay for his defense against federal charges that were dropped in a plea deal.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick also refused to allow Weyhrauch's attorneys to subpoena witnesses and documents to investigate their claims that federal prosecutors and an FBI agent misrepresented evidence before a federal grand jury.

And, in the final point of his five-page order, Sedwick told Weyhrauch and his lawyers: Don't ask me again.

"In the interest of sparing both judicial and litigant resources, it is further ordered that the court will not entertain any motion for reconsideration of this order," Sedwick concluded. "It is time for the case against Mr. Weyhrauch to be laid to rest."

Weyhrauch was initially charged in 2007 as part of the FBI's wide-ranging Alaska corruption investigation. The heart of the case against Weyhrauch was his solicitation of legal work from the then- politically active oil-field service company Veco and its chief executive Bill Allen. At the time, Allen was actively lobbying the Legislature on behalf of low oil taxes, and federal prosecutors said Weyhrauch had a duty to disclose his conflict of interest before acting on the tax measure.

But while Weyhrauch's case was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the fraud statute under which he was charged -- defrauding Alaskans of his "honest services" -- was being applied too broadly in corruption cases. While not directly ruling in Weyhrauch's case, the decision damaged the federal prosecution.

In a plea bargain in March, Weyhrauch pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor state charge involving lobbying, and the federal charges were dropped. Weyhrauch then asked Sedwick to order the government to reimburse $663,000 in legal fees, asserting that he was the "prevailing party" and that his prosecution was "vexatious, frivolous or in bad faith."

Sedwick, however, said there was no need to hold a hearing on his assertion of misconduct by prosecutors because Weyhrauch failed the first test -- his guilty plea meant he didn't qualify as a prevailing party and couldn't claim to be "innocent" of federal charges.

In related cases, federal prosecutors have filed their opposition to moving the upcoming retrials of Kott and former Rep. Vic Kohring outside of Alaska.

Earlier this month, attorneys for both men asserted that potential jurors in Alaska would be hopelessly prejudiced against them.

After initial convictions in 2007, both won appeals and are being retried, Kohring in October and Kott in December.

In opposing a venue change, prosecutors said both men had fair juries for their original trials, for which they also sought new venues, and there's no reason to believe anything has changed.

"Kohring will suffer no such prejudice," assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis said in a court filing Wednesday, using virtually identical language as he did in a similar document in Kott's case, also filed Wednesday.

"If anything, the media coverage and public perception issues that Kohring relies upon to support his motion are even less of a concern than they were four years ago. Kohring is no longer a legislator, the focus on his case has waned, and the news coverage to date has been predominantly factual in nature and has not been the type of inflammatory or blatantly prejudicial information placing this case in the category of extreme cases where prejudice may be presumed."


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

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