The case against Josef Boehm and his associates is more than five years old, but issues kept secret during the trial are now coming to light at the request of the U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage. It appears the request was made, in part, to try to dispel the notion that statutory rape allegations lodged against Allen were kept quiet to maintain momentum in a growing political corruption probe that was already under way by the Justice Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Russo said last week that his office asked for the records to be unsealed since there was no longer a reason to keep them secret. Because of recent filings in one of the corruption cases, the allegations contained in the Boehm motions are already part of the public record, Russo said, adding that the policy manual for U.S. attorneys directs prosecutors to unseal records when the reasons for keeping them secret no longer exist.
It's one more twist in the ongoing saga of whether federal prosecutors and FBI agents suppressed potential evidence that could have helped defense lawyers discredit Allen, the government's star witness, during his testimony against Alaska politicians.
Allen became a target of the feds' corruption probe in December 2004, according to the FBI, and he pleaded guilty in May 2007 to bribing state lawmakers. He's cooperated in the investigation, including testifying against former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, and last month was sentenced to three years in prison.
Withheld impeachment evidence ultimately botched the government's case against Stevens and it is now an issue in the pending review of the 2007 convictions of former state Reps. Vic Kohring and Pete Kott.
In a recent motion to have Kott's case dismissed, his lawyer, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, argues that Allen's potential exposure in one or more sex-crimes investigations, along with allegations that he tried to cover his tracks by getting an underage girlfriend to deny their relationship, should have been disclosed during Kott's trial two year ago. McCloud says those facts could have influenced Allen's credibility with the jury and his motivation for cooperating with the government.
McCloud wants more information about why an Anchorage Police detective investigating statutory rape allegations against Allen was told by the feds to back off. Among her questions: Was it because of the Boehm case, the budding corruption probe, or something else?
A federal judge will hear arguments Nov. 17 on whether to dismiss the charges against Kott or hold a new trial.
The documents unsealed last week were originally filed with the court over a four-month period in 2004 - July to October - and appear to relate to Bambi Tyree, a co-defendant and witness in the Boehm case. Tyree was cutting a plea deal with the government in return for testifying against Boehm, including to say Boehm was the ringleader of a scheme to trade drugs for sex with underage girls at his South Anchorage home.
At the time, Boehm's lawyers aimed to discredit Tyree, claiming she was a ringleader herself, and wanted a judge to allow them to question her about certain subjects during Boehm's upcoming trial. But a federal prosecutor argued successfully to limit their questioning about her alleged sexual relationship with Allen when she was a teenager.
At that point in 2004, Tyree had already allegedly admitted that she started having sex with Allen when she was 15, according to notes from an interview with Tyree by the government. Fearing exposure, court records allege Allen asked Tyree to sign a statement saying she never had sex with him. When Boehm's attorneys learned she had signed the false statement, they pushed to use that fact to discredit her.
The government didn't dispute the allegations but wanted any discussion on the matter in open court limited to Tyree having made a false statement, without disclosing her alleged relationship with Allen. The documents show prosecutors felt Tyree's relationship with Allen was irrelevant to the Boehm case.
The documents also seem to show that prosecutors were not actively trying cover up any criminal wrongdoing by Allen.
"To be clear, the United States does not have any interest in protecting Allen from what he did," wrote Russo in the previously sealed motion, which was first filed July 26, 2004. "Indeed, he may still face charges for statutory rape. However, the United States is concerned about the potential distraction introduction of such evidence may create. Because Allen is a well-known figure in the community, there is danger of 'the sideshow taking over the circus.'"
Tyree's credibility was relevant, Russo concluded, but not her sexual history prior to her involvement with Boehm. Disclosing Allen's name would serve only to confuse the issues and result in "waste of time," he argued.
Still, the unsealed court documents leave one question unanswered: Why did Russo ask Anchorage Police detective Kevin Vandegriff to back off investigating Allen in 2004 over his alleged relationship with Tyree?
Documents filed by Kott's lawyer show Vangedriff was advised in March 2004 "to not actively investigate the case as it might interfere with a federal investigation involving Allen and Boehm."
By then Boehm had already been indicted (January 2004), a former mistress of Allen's had reported Allen's relationship with Tyree to police, and within one month (April 2004) the FBI was debriefing at least one witness in the political corruption probe.
In an interview last week, Russo said that during spring 2004 he wanted to make sure that any investigation of Allen focused on looking for connections to the larger sex and drug case related to Boehm. A single statutory rape allegation was outside the scope of the larger case at hand, he added.
As for any crossover between the Boehm case and the corruption probe, Russo said that in spring 2004 his office had no knowledge of any federal investigations of Allen, including the corruption probe that was about to gain steam later that same year.
Contact Jill Burke at jill_alaskadispatch.com