With new attorney, Anderson will try to get out of prison

Richard Mauer

Former state Rep. Tom Anderson, the only Alaska corruption defendant currently in prison, has a new attorney and is about to seek release from federal custody nearly three years before his sentence is complete.

Anchorage lawyer Fred Dewey filed notice last week in U.S. District Court that he was now representing Anderson. In a brief interview Friday, Dewey said he planned to follow the lead of two other former legislators who served time in prison, Pete Kott and Vic Kohring, in trying to get Anderson out.

"It's similar to Kott and Kohring but unique to his case," Dewey said. He declined to provide details, saying Anderson's positions will be made clear in motions next week.

After he was found guilty in 2007, Anderson admitted he had broken the law and deserved punishment, so it's unclear what options he might have now. Kott and Kohring appealed their convictions to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, while Anderson did not.

Kott and Kohring, convicted of bribery and conspiracy, were freed in June when the government admitted it had failed to turn over favorable evidence before and during their trials. A similar issue resulted in dismissal of charges against Sen. Ted Stevens after a jury found him guilty of lying on his Senate disclosures.

Anderson's case involved a different set of circumstances and witnesses than most of the others caught up in the FBI's corruption investigation. He was convicted of scheming with the lobbyist of a private prison company to take secret payments in return for his pushing the company's interests in Alaska.

Bill Allen, the former Veco Corp. chief executive with the wide-open wallet, played no role in Anderson's case. Allen was the chief witness against Stevens, Kott and Kohring, and some of the evidence improperly withheld from defense attorneys involved contradictory statements Allen had made to the FBI and prosecutors.

Allen pleaded guilty to conspiracy in May 2007 but has not yet been sentenced.

Meanwhile, other cases continue to plod on. U.S. District Judge John Sedwick must eventually decide whether the withheld evidence in the Kott and Kohring cases is significant enough to warrant new trials, or even dismissal of all charges.

Prosecutors told Sedwick during a hearing in June that they expected to complete a review of all their files by the end of July to determine the scope of withheld evidence. But on the eve of that deadline, prosecutors asked for a break.

"The government has worked diligently and industriously and has completed the bulk of its review, but respectfully requests a two-week extension to file its disclosure certification, from July 31, 2009, to August 14, 2009, purely out of an abundance of caution and in order to guarantee the thoroughness of its review," Peter Koski, a trial attorney in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, wrote Sedwick.

On Friday, Sedwick agreed to the delay.

There have also been recent developments in the case of Jim Clark, former Gov. Frank Murkowski's chief of staff, who is awaiting sentencing on his March 4, 2008, guilty plea to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. He and Allen joined together to illegally spend $68,550 of Veco's money on Murkowski's failed re-election bid in 2006. Clark has said Murkowski was not part of the effort to foil Alaska's campaign spending laws.

Sedwick, also the judge in Clark's case, had agreed to hold off on sentencing Clark because he was cooperating with the FBI. But Sedwick has been growing impatient with the pace of the investigation.

In an order signed Wednesday, Sedwick ordered government prosecutors to a closed hearing on Aug. 6, where they could explain to him why they want Clark to remain free.

"The court must determine how best to accommodate the tension between defendant Clark's assistance in on-going investigations and possible upcoming trials with the need to bring the case against Mr. Clark to a conclusion," Sedwick wrote. It's possible that Clark could continue to cooperate from prison, Sedwick said.

Reached in Juneau, Clark declined to comment.

Clark has been assisting the FBI and prosecutors in explaining the complex events surrounding the 2006 debate in the Legislature over oil taxes and a possible gas pipeline. Kott and Kohring were convicted in part for their actions during that session, and pending charges against another former legislator, Bruce Weyhrauch, concern the same subject. Former Senate President Ben Stevens, Ted Stevens' son, has also been under investigation for his actions during 2006 session but has not been charged.

The Justice Department has replaced the FBI agents and prosecutors who led the investigation in its first four years, requiring a new team to become familiar with the issues and personalities.

Weyhrauch also was the subject of a Sedwick order issued from chambers Thursday. With the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to hear arguments concerning the scope of one of the four counts of his indictment, Sedwick set a trial date of Sept. 13, 2010 -- enough time, the judge suggested, for the Supreme Court to resolve the issue.

Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer or call 257-4345.

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