Former Alaska Rep. Kott wants retrial moved out of town

Richard Mauer

Former Alaska House Speaker Pete Kott on Friday joined ex-Rep. Vic Kohring in asking that their retrials on corruption charges take place somewhere other than Anchorage.

In a 28-page motion filed in U.S. District Court, Kott said the "media frenzy" that begin in 2006, when the FBI raided legislative offices across the state, creates the "presumption" that a fair jury can't be seated in Anchorage or Juneau.

Kott's court-appointed attorney, Sheryl Gordon McCloud of Seattle, didn't propose another venue but suggested the trial could be shifted within the Alaska district or to a court Outside. Besides Anchorage and Juneau, the U.S. District Court for Alaska sits in Fairbanks, Nome and Ketchikan.

On July 8, an attorney representing Kohring asked that his retrial be moved to one of the other eight western states served by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

McCloud asked that her motion to move Kott's trial be considered with Kohring's.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline is hearing both cases. As they stand now, Kohring's trial is scheduled for Beistline's Anchorage courtroom on Oct. 31 and Kott's on Dec. 5.

Both lawmakers were convicted in 2007 of taking bribes from former Veco chief executive Bill Allen in Allen's bid to influence oil tax legislation. They successfully challenged their convictions in the appellate court, arguing that prosecutors failed in their duty to turn over evidence that would have helped the defense.

McCloud, in arguing to move Kott's trial, said potential jurors in Kott's 2007 trial already had extensive knowledge of the case and news coverage hasn't gone away since then.

"Almost every one of the potential jurors who were (questioned) for the first trial had heard of the political corruption investigation, of which the Pete Kott case was a part, through media reports," she wrote. "Many expressed strong and negative feelings towards Mr. Kott as a result of this."

The judge in the first trial, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick, had denied Kott a change of venue, saying that despite the publicity, he was able to seat a fair jury.

Though McCloud didn't cite any recent public opinion research, she said Beistline should presume that potential jurors would be biased and partial.

"Much media coverage was inflammatory and it generated negative, Internet-wide public commentary," she said.

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