Editor's note: The following commentary was first featured in Make-A-Scene, a monthly community publication serving readers in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. It is the second installment in a series through which Mr. Kohring intends to tell his own side of the federal Alaska public corruption probe.
It was Fair time, August 31, 2006 when a friend and I were driving down the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. I received a phone call on my cell from a man with a cold, soulless voice from the FBI. He demanded that I immediately return to my legislative office in Wasilla. He did not say why. He told me in a voice calculated to intimidate, “It would be in your best interest and something we strongly suggest.” While I was under no legal obligation to do as he insisted, I was curious and wondered what was going on. I had nothing to hide so I returned, only to receive a load of lies from men with protruding guns at their hips, a pattern that would continue for the next five years.
I arrived at my office on Railroad Avenue to see FBI vehicles all over the place. One would think a major crime was taking place with all that presence. I walked in and a splenetic-faced man flashed an FBI badge and told me I ought to send my staff home because I would be busy answering their questions. Without my permission they began going through my files and papers. Six armed men of the government, three with white rubber gloves, began to take apart my office. One locked my door with me inside. It began to look like a raid.
As the FBI men rummaged through my files, they took off their coats to reveal handguns on their hips which, they made sure I would see over and over as they moved around my little office. An FBI agent, big gun on hip, assured me at first that I was a “witness,” not a suspect, which was Lie Number One. They claimed they wanted to find out about Veco CEO Bill Allen and his relationship with me. The FBI agent told me they had a search warrant, which they never produced, but if I granted them permission to search my property ... which they were already doing as he stated this, the FBI would not go to the press. Lie Number Two, for they went to the press anyway. I don’t think they ever had a search warrant on them, otherwise they would have presented it. At that point I should have stood up and demanded they all leave or I would call the cops. Even the FBI has to have a physical warrant before they can search someone. But since I had nothing to hide, I allowed them to continue.
Lie Number Three occurred when my long-time friend and personal lawyer Robert Hall arrived. He heard I was surrounded by FBI agents and had come to help. Unable to open the locked door to my outer office, which I always left open for the public to have easy access to me and my staff, he knocked on the door and spoke to an armed agent but was turned away. Yet Robert loyally remained outside the door and spent over two hours waiting. He knocked again and asked the agent to pass word to me that he was outside wanting to advise me. But I was never informed of this. I was being detained and didn't know it. Lie Number Four came in court later when the FBI denied this ever happened.
By this time I realized the FBI had been conning me from the beginning. A.) They had knowledge of every question asked of me. Not until later did I discover their deceit. The government knew all along Allen had been my friend, that he had given me some money for my step-daughter as a gift. B.) They were trying to catch me in some contradiction. It turns out their sole purpose was to attempt to trick me into giving inconsistent answers so they could charge me with making false statements. I'm sure they left disappointed as their efforts proved wasted. Eventually -- and this would be the entire focus of the FBI -- they took the issue of Allen's gift of several hundred dollars which he admitted as such on one of the FBI video tapes, and made a huge federal case of bribery out of it.
As I recognized what was happening, I was simultaneously infuriated and aware that, since I was innocent of whatever they were looking for, I would humor them. So from that point on I answered their questions carefully, deliberately, but generally. Toward the end of the several-hour interrogation -- more like an inquisition -- one of the armed government men asked me in the now typical, grim FBI way (remember I was supposedly a witness, not a suspect), "I have one last question, which if you don’t answer honestly could cost you 20 years in prison." He referred to it as the Martha Stewart Question. Then he asked a question which was so inane, I cannot remember what it was. They had locked and detained me in my inner office, prevented me from speaking with my lawyer, surrounded me with large, obvious handguns as the agents searched, no honest statement of purpose, no reading of rights and then finally threatened me with 20 years in prison.
What did all this pomposity, arrogance and lies net the FBI? What did all the files and my computer net them? Nothing. No letters of intent. Nothing that would indicate bribery or even a salacious statement. I learned later that the FBI, while “raiding” my office in Wasilla, was also raiding my office in the state capital. What did the Juneau raid gain them? Also nothing. During the subsequent trial, the most they could say in their wisdom was that on my computer, Bill Allen’s name was not where it ought to have been.
The FBI called in agents from all over the country, which my lawyer forced them to admit during the trial -- over a dozen in all -- to conduct two raids. But it netted them nothing. They lied repeatedly. Yet through all this, they acted as if they were honest, halo-wearing guys with honorable intentions. The government later attempted to make a case out of a dark, grainy, black-and-white FBI video showing Allen giving me $100 for my stepdaughter for an Easter egg hunt, which was blown way out of proportion by a delighted media. With a compliant judge who had a major reason to despise me (I had abolished his wife's $110,000-a-year government job with my bill to consolidate state agencies to achieve efficiencies and save money) and numerous government prosecutors who later were shown to have wrongly concealed over 6,000 pages of evidence, much of which was crucial and would have proven I was telling the truth, and an avalanche of more lies to the jury, the government was able to falsely convict me.
I shall describe this process in further detail in later columns. The FBI consists of people, many of whom I observed to be crass liars. They lie, cheat, they create their own values, anything to get a conviction. Since they are the prime law enforcement agency in the U.S., they can get away with venal behavior. I shall document that behavior soon too.
Vic Kohring represented Wasilla, Chugiak and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley in the Alaska House of Representatives. He was first elected in 1994 and resigned in 2007.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.