Editor's note: A version of the following commentary was first featured in Make-A-Scene, a monthly community publication serving readers in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. It is the sixth installment in a series through which Mr. Kohring intends to tell his own side of the federal probe of public corruption in Alaska.
Most people by now have heard the unfortunate news that prosecutors in Ted Stevens case committed serious, widespread misconduct, costing him his trial. Last month's blistering criminal investigative report exposed this. Many are unaware that these same thugs committed the same egregious acts against me, despite the ludicrous assertion by the "Justice" Department (a contradictory term) that Stevens case, which involved deliberate concealment of evidence, was "isolated." Excuse me, but they also committed the same willful, premeditated acts against me -- even worse -- which the government is now sweeping under the rug. Their dishonesty has become routine with shot credibility. It's now standard operating procedure to get caught, then issue a press release to deny wrong-doing. For the remaining doubters and naysayers still skeptical of my arguments concerning the prosecution's antics and criminal conduct, please look at the report confirming how crooked they've proved themselves to be.
Stevens' case is nearly identical to mine. The government is again lying to cover-up the fact that his was not isolated. What's new? The fact is the exact same prosecutors who committed misconduct against Stevens were assigned to me, unlike Kott's and the dozen other "corruption" cases. I was used as a stepping stone -- by design -- to get Ted, their biggest prize. Convicting me opened the door to get Stevens. These same prosecutors committed the same egregious misconduct -- deliberate concealment of crucial evidence and allowing false testimony against me as with Stevens. The same so-called "star" witness, Veco CEO Bill Allen, collaborated with prosecutors and perjured himself on the witness stand while testifying against both myself and Ted to achieve fraudulent convictions. Six thousand, five hundred pages of evidence were intentionally concealed against me, significantly contributing to my loss at trial, the same as Ted. But unlike Ted, I was thrown in prison until the government was forced to admit it willfully hid critical evidence I could have used to exonerate myself and clear my name. Allen admitted in secret, behind-closed-door meetings with prosecutors and FBI agents that he did not bribe me nor had any intention to do so. This too was concealed along with dozens of other pieces of highly relevant discovery including a government "informant" being bought off with $200,000.00 to testify against and help wrongly convict me. Because I was unable to properly and fully defend myself at trial (supposedly a guaranteed, constitutional right), I was convicted, resulting in a life in ruins -- the same as Stevens.
Many are shocked to learn of the similarities between the two cases. Most have no idea. When I explain, people often become steaming mad. They ask why it's not common knowledge. I tell them how Stevens, a U.S. senator of 40 years was a much higher profile lawmaker than me, a seven-term state legislator. He thus received more press, reaching more Alaskans about how he was run over roughshod, the same as me.
The biggest and only real difference between our cases is that Stevens' was dismissed. Mine wasn't. Why? Because Ted was assigned Judge Sullivan, a man with high principles and integrity who genuinely sought justice. No games or politics. When Sullivan saw the sham trial run by prosecutors, he properly dismissed the case. Unfortunately, I was assigned Judge Sedwick, a "judge" with a completely different and hostile attitude. Sedwick's wife lost her $110,000.00/year job due to my House Bill 40, yet refused to step down from my case despite his glaring conflict. Worse, he refused to dismiss my case while being fully aware of the prosecutor's ugly conduct and intentional concealment of evidence. Sedwick also rejected my request for an inquiry, something Sullivan properly granted with Stevens. Mine was referred to as an "evidentiary hearing." Sedwick stuck me in the back while protecting his government friends. While in a position of authority over me, he refused to do the honorable thing despite far more hidden evidence. Thus, having a fair, impartial judge with no axe to grind makes a huge difference in a case's outcome. I was assigned one who was vindictive and with judgment so clouded, he even ignored federal law -- the judicial Code of Conduct requiring recusal when confronted with a serious conflict of interest. Even an appearance of a conflict (not an actual conflict) requires removal from a case.
I'm pleased for Stevens' family that Ted finally appears to be having his name cleared. But for true justice to occur, those responsible for destroying my life (not to mention the judge) who committed the same egregious acts against Ted, must be held fully accountable. No slap on the wrist. No job "re-assignment" or "sensitivity training." Stop clowning around. These crooks belong in jail. They unnecessarily and with deliberate intention ruined the lives of two people. Sen. Murkowski's legislation requiring prosecutors to promptly disclose favorable evidence is only a start. The U.S. Constitution -- namely the 5th and 6th Amendments -- is supposed to grant defendants rights to due process and a fair trial including allowing all evidence and witnesses, not what a judge or prosecutor selectively decides. Stevens and I were denied these basic, fundamental rights when the cheating prosecutors hoped no one would notice and they wouldn't get caught. If our rights as citizens were respected by the so-called "Justice" (Injustice?) Department, there would be no need for Murkowski's bill. A letter in USA Today said the same -- they shouldn't have to be told to follow the law.
It's ironic that I write this on Easter Sunday, the very holiday which played a central role in my case. It was with Allen's $100 gift for my step-daughter at Easter 2006 that I bought Easter eggs and a basket for the little girl, something the government exploited by creating a mammoth case, complete with four felony charges. Five, twenty dollar bills and no real evidence? It's shameful. What has become of our country? Why are our public servants so out of control? Today's leaders often reflect how society has degenerated so far that many don't respect their fellow man and won't hesitate to exploit others for personal gain. Those targeting me and Stevens are no different. Pope Benedict XVI held an Easter vigil voicing the same fears that "mankind is groping in darkness, unable to distinguish good from evil." Such evil has reared its ugly head in our judiciary, a governmental branch that's supposed to protect us from false incrimination, not take advantage of people for selfish, egotistical reasons. America's supposed to be the shining light, a beacon and example to the world of how individuals are to be treated with dignity and respect as human beings. It's troubling how far we've fallen. The Pope's message that "Truth is stronger than lies," his theme, caused me to immediately think of the prosecutors handling my case.
Consider also how these corrupt prosecutors have mocked those who fought and died in foreign wars to preserve the constitutional rights we are all supposed to be guaranteed. My father's service in World War II has been cheapened, a man who fought bravely on the front lines on France's battlefields against the Germans. He risked his life so his son's rights and legal protections would be preserved and respected. But his sacrifice was spurned. Disparaged. A disgrace that personally offends my family and me and is an affront to many Americans. It's difficult not to feel disdain for these guys. I know others feel the same and are outraged by what happened to me and Stevens. You could see it at the recent rally in Anchorage for Stevens. I hear it from people here in the Mat-Su Valley and elsewhere, almost daily. Sen. Murkowski believes the same. She testified in Congress that this will be recorded as "among the darkest moments in the Justice Department's 223-year history." How true. And who knows how many others were falsely accused before Ted and I came along, without the influence or name recognition we enjoyed to achieve media exposure. How many poor, innocent souls rotted in prison with destroyed lives because of immoral, cheating prosecutors, with no way to get word out? The prosecutor who sadly committed suicide speaks volumes about the guilt of his colleagues. At least he had a conscience and is therefore the only one I respect. May God rest his soul. Why can't the others at least express some remorse? Why no apology or even a simple utterance that they screwed up?
Once a target of the all-powerful United States government, it’s nearly impossible to escape its clutches. If Stevens, one of the most successful and influential people ever can be railroaded so easily with seven felony convictions, it can happen to anyone. One's innocence or the truth is not always a priority in these people's minds. The average person has no real chance if the government wants you. For true justice to occur, the prosecutors should be indicted and put on trial. Then a nice, long prison sentence to think about their misdeeds. Nothing else will suffice.
Please join me, along with Alaskans for Justice, to help further expose these people and hold them responsible. It's the least we can do to honor the memory of fellow Alaskan Ted Stevens.
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.