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Vic Kohring to plead guilty

Amanda CoyneThe New York Times

Former Alaska Rep. Vic Kohring has given notice that he intends to plead guilty in one of the four federal charges he was facing as part of the long and tangled federal political corruption probe in Alaska.

Kohring's trial on federal corruption charges was scheduled to begin Oct. 31. It would have been the second time he stood on trail for the charges, which included taking money from oil man Bill Allen in exchange for a 2006 vote to keep oil taxes low.

The court filings make mention of a plea deal Kohring had made with federal prosecutors which preclude any further prison time. "The only sentencing issues which have not been agreed upon between the parties are the length of any period of supervised release and the conditions of supervised release," Kohring's lawyers wrote in the filling.

Pete Kott, Alaska's former Speaker of the House also gave notice last week that he intends to change his not guilty plea in a bribery charge.

Both Kott and Kohring were accused of taking bribes from Allen and VECO for their official help with a new oil tax structure and legislation pertaining to a natural gas pipeline. "These...indictments allege that the defendants sold their offices in Alaska's State House to an influential energy company in exchange for cash payments, loans, jobs for relatives and the promise of future employment," Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said at the time. Kott and Kohring were caught on FBI surveillance footage yucking it up with Allen in his Juneau hotel room. Kohring is seen taking cash from Allen to put in Easter eggs for his kids. At one point Kott can be heard saying to Allen "I had to get 'er done. So I had to come back and face this man right here (pointing to the CEO). I had to cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie."

Kott and Kohring were convicted in separate trials and began serving their time, but were released early under Justice Department orders in the wake of the department's decision to toss out the case and convictions against former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens due to mishandling of evidence by prosecutors. They have remained free while their appeals make their way through the courts.

Kott told Alaska Dispatch last week this chapter in his life -- the arrest, the first trial, the incarceration, the appeal, the upcoming retrial -- has been tough on him and his family. "Maybe it's just time to put it behind me and move forward in life regardless of what (I) think the outcome should be," he said when asked if his intent to change his plea meant he was actually guilty of the crimes he’s accused of.

The trials of Kott and Kohring would have been the last in the federal political corruption probe of Alaska lawmakers known as "Operation Polar Pen."

Contact Amanda Coyne at amanda(at)alaskadispatch.com