The U.S. Supreme Court has set Dec. 8 as the date for oral arguments in the appeal of former Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, who is seeking to reinstate a court order that sharply limited the federal government's mail fraud case against him.
Weyhrauch, a Juneau Republican, is the only defendant awaiting trial in the wide-ranging federal corruption investigation in Alaska. He was originally supposed to be tried in 2007 alongside former House speaker Pete Kott, but his case was separated over the mail-fraud issue.
Kott was convicted and had served about two years of a six-year sentence when he was released in June. His prison term is on hold while U.S. District Judge John Sedwick decides whether his trial was tainted by prosecutors who withheld favorable evidence from his attorneys.
Before the cases were separated, Sedwick had ruled against prosecutors on one count of a four-count indictment charging Weyhrauch with conspiracy, extortion, bribery and fraud.
At issue was a job Weyhrauch sought from the oil-field services company Veco Corp. In 2006, while the Alaska Legislature was still in session, Weyhrauch, a lawyer, asked Veco to give him legal services work later in the year. At the same time, Veco was actively lobbying the Legislature in opposition to increased oil taxes.
Prosecutors said that Weyhrauch should have disclosed his job-seeking as a conflict of interest. But Weyhrauch's attorneys argued that because nothing in state law required such a disclosure, the federal fraud statute couldn't be used to charge him with defrauding Alaskans of his "honest services."
Sedwick agreed with Weyhrauch, but the government appealed and won in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Weyhrauch then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Though the Supreme Court rarely intervenes before a trial, it agreed to take Weyhrauch's case.
Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer or call 257-4345.
By RICHARD MAUER