Plea deal to keep ex-lawmakers Kott, Kohring out of prison

BRIBERY ADMITTED: Sentencing is set for Friday.

Anchorage Daily NewsOctober 19, 2011 

Prosecutors have agreed to not seek any more prison time for two former legislators, Pete Kott and Vic Kohring, despite their fresh admissions that they accepted bribes to promote oil-tax legislation favored by industry.

In sentencing memorandums filed Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office said the new plea bargains made by Kott and Kohring included promises that prosecutors would accept the time they've already served from 2007 convictions on corruption charges.

Kott, a former House speaker, served 17 months of a 6-year sentence. Kohring, once the chairman of the House Special Committee on Oil & Gas, served 12 months of a 3 1/2-year sentence.

Kott's deal would also reaffirm a $10,000 fine imposed in 2007 and require him to serve three years on probation, including one year under curfew. Prosecutors said they did not reach agreement with Kohring on probation, but suggested it should also be three years. Kohring is too broke to afford a fine, they said.

Prosecutors acknowledged the proposed sentences were below the minimums set by federal sentencing guidelines, but they argued the penalties were appropriate.

"Mr. Kott, the United States and the people of Alaska have an interest in bringing finality to this case," they wrote in a filing in U.S. District Court. "Mr. Kott's admission of guilt and felony conviction, and the sentence recommended herein, represent a fair, reasoned and just result."

The memorandum prosecutors filed for Kohring used identical language, changing only the name.

Prosecutors filed supplements to the sentencing memorandums and plea agreements for both men under seal.

After their convictions in 2007, Kott and Kohring won do-overs in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing successfully that their original trials were tainted by prosecutors who failed to provide them with favorable evidence in their files. Each faced upcoming retrials on three felony charges apiece, but the plea agreements reduced their charges to a single felony for each defendant.

In Kott's case, it's bribery, with a maximum penalty of 10 years, according to his plea deal. Kohring is pleading guilty to engaging in a bribery conspiracy, carrying a maximum of five years in prison.

Kott and Kohring will formally enter their guilty pleas Friday and be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline.

Under federal court rules, Beistline is not permitted to get involved in plea negotiations and doesn't have to accept the bargains. But judges rarely deviate from deals presented by both defense and prosecution. Either defendant can withdraw his plea if the judge refuses to go along.

Kott was contrite in his sentencing memorandum, filed by his appointed Seattle attorney, Peter Camiel.

"There is no way to minimize the seriousness of the offense conduct. Mr. Kott has demonstrated his recognition of the seriousness of the offense and has entered into a plea agreement whereby he has accepted responsibility for his actions," Camiel's filing said. "Mr. Kott will now have a felony conviction on his record."

Beistline allowed Kohring to file his plea agreement under seal.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis said in his sentencing and plea memorandums that the bribery schemes involved oil-tax legislation heavily lobbied by the oil-field contractor Veco Corp. and its chief executive, Bill Allen. Allen and a Veco vice president, Rick Smith, hoped the new petroleum production tax would encourage the state's oil producers to build a gas pipeline. Allen thought Veco would make a fortune helping to build the line.

Kott is admitting accepting bribes from Veco and Allen.

"Mr. Kott put his own personal interests above the interests of the people of Alaska when he accepted bribes and solicited a job from Bill Allen," Feldis wrote. "Mr. Kott violated the public's trust and broke the law."

Kott, an Eagle River Republican who served in the House from 1992 to 2007 and also ran a flooring business, admitted that between January and August 2006, he accepted an excess payment of $7,993 from Allen through a fake invoice on a flooring job at Allen's Anchorage home. Kott previously claimed the payment was a bonus for doing good work.

He also admitted that he tried to get future employment from Allen and that he took $1,000 in cash from Allen.

"Kott knew he was not entitled to these thing of value, and he solicited and accepted them intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with his official acts as a member of the State Legislature related to the PPT legislation," the plea agreement said.

Kohring served in the House from 1994 to 2007 as a Republican from Wasilla. Though Kohring had an extreme anti-tax ideology, he agreed in a phone call with Smith that he wouldn't go "crazy" or "wacko" on the PPT legislation, and instead support politically acceptable tax levels sought by Veco and the industry, his plea agreement said.

At a dinner at the Island Pub in Juneau on Feb. 23, 2006, Allen handed him a $1,000 cash gift.

"I accepted that money," Kohring says in his plea deal. "I took this money intending to be rewarded and knowing and understanding why Bill Allen was giving it me. By accepting this money with that knowledge and intent, I knowingly became a part of the conspiracy to bribe elected officials," he admitted.

He solicited more money from Allen and Smith, including funds to cover a $17,000 credit card debt, he said. He didn't get the credit card money, but Allen gave him more cash, Kohring admitted.

"Kohring is now prepared to accept responsibility and move forward with his life," the prosecution's sentencing memo said. "His career as a legislator is long over. His felony conviction and the time he has already served in jail, in addition to the long period he has spent under Court supervision, will deter not only Kohring, but others, from engaging in such conduct in the future. An additional three years of supervised release will insure that the public continues to be protected and that Kohring is reminded of the seriousness of his conduct."

Both men said they understood that a federal felony conviction could bar them from collecting federal benefits like grants or food stamps, and terminate their rights to possess firearms, vote, or hold public office.


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

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