Friday, June 10, 2011
We've been busy having a good time here with both our kids, so I'm just sending that little bit. I found a link to the whole AP story here if you want to see more.
Friday, May 09, 2008
. . . granted, he’s not Pete Kott when it comes to the colorful language, but you saw a guy who was politely corrupt. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t corrupt because he doesn’t swear. The fact that he’s - Andy Griffith - I don’t recall any shows where Andy Griffith took cash from anyone. He may be polite, but still corrupt.This raises so many issues - about Kohring, but more importantly, about all of us. How do we judge people? How do we decide who to trust and not. We 'hire' politicians to spend our money and steer the ship of State with far less research than most organizations use to hire an administrative assistant or janitor. (And there's no disrespect intended here for admin assistants or janitors, organizations can't run without them.)
So if someone has a veneer of respectable - polite, decent clothes, good haircut, etc. - we make all sorts of positive assumptions about them.
Watching Kohring in court during his trial and even talking to him during breaks, I feel like this is someone who got in way over his head. He reminds me of a kid who has spent his life learning how to avoid trouble, maybe from an abusive parent or from bullies. He's learned to be very polite and to ask "How can I help you?" I think he really means it. But doing everything he's learned how to do, he still gets into trouble. I've written about the contradictions in Kohring's life before - the free market advocate who only has government gigs on his resume.
The rules of life are hard. Some people need hard and fast rules, others are comfortable with the ebb and tide of life. There are different kinds of smarts. Kohring seems to have 'follow the rule' smarts. The problems for this sort of person come when there are conflicting rules, or when conditions change and the rules no longer apply. He pledged early on that he wouldn't vote for taxes. And didn't, but said he would if they called it a fee. Bottini called him a frequent flier at the Legislative Ethics Ofiice meaning he constantly checked on whether he was obeying the law, but they only warned him about state law probably, not the federal law he was convicted of. He understands, I think, that "here's your money, now go vote this way" is illegal. He doesn't understand that "Here's your money" and then sometime later, "Hey, Vic, let that bill out of committee" is the same thing. Don Corleone explained all this: (hit the yellow arrow)
someday imported by
"Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding."
"Politely Corrupt" also raises a basic theme of this "What do I know?" blog. How do we know things? How do our brains affect what data from the 'real world' we consider (and what we filter out) and how do we interpret those 'facts' that do get in? "He may be polite, but still corrupt." Polite is easy to see, corrupt is far less visible. We tend not to think of the two combined. Maybe Hollywood needs to make more movies with polite villains so that we get used to looking out for them too.
How did Kohring know who to trust? He trusted Bill Allen, but now he says he was betrayed. He trusts John Henry Browne who at the end of the trial said the defense had cost about $100,000. But Browne also said yesterday, in explaining the new back surgery that Kohring needs, that Kohring had been injured in a car accident before the trial. In Browne's car. Browne was driving. It was his fault.
I guess Browne's insurance is paying for that surgery. But did Kohring check with an attorney other than Browne about a settlement? And some might even think there was a conflict of interest if his criminal defense attorney is the man he might have to litigate over his back injury. And this all happened before the trial.
My biggest hope (though I'm not holding my breath) is that people will take more care and time in studying the backgrounds and beliefs of the people on the ballot in November. That they look past labels like Republican and Democrat and look at the people. They look past 30 second television commercials. Look past bumper sticker slogans like "no taxes" and take the measure of the candidate. Get people down to Juneau and DC who think, are comfortable with themselves, know how to handle money (their own and the state's), and have a good understanding of how everything fits together.
And here's the press grilling one of the jurists after the sentencing. One of Browne's arguments for lowering the sentencing was that we don't know exactly how many of the bribery charges the jury found Kohring guilty of. Although this juror didn't say a lot, I heard her to say she had taken everything into account.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Vic Kohring Sentencing
U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
9:30 AM 3:07-CR-00055-JWS Judge Sedwick ANCHORAGE COURTROOM 3
USA vs. VICTOR H. KOHRING
(Joseph Bottini) (John Henry Browne)
(Edward Sullivan) (Wayne Anthony Ross)
IMPOSITION OF SENTENCE
9:35am Judge Sedwick is explaining why we are here
List of Felonies Vic Kohring convicted of
Pre Sentence Report Prepared which I’ve read
Vic Kohring have you read the presentencing report?
Presentencing Report. Vic Kohring has mentioned three objections:
A. Not one of allegations predating 2006 is relevant for sentencing
B. Since related PPT bill, related to only one subject matter, …. Unwarranted
C. Sum total of payments Vic Kohring received was less than $5000 so …..
Sedwick, I will take up these later, but first all other findings of fact I find supported by preponderance of evidence.
I’ll hear from lawyers.
Then Determine sentence.
Then hear argument on his motion to be released pending appeal.
Mr. Browne: [Kohring's defense attorney. Although Wayne Anthony Ross is also listed, he hasn't been actively involved in the courtroom]
John Henry Browne: You have everything we’ve filed, more detailed than presentation. You summarized objections right.
Vic Kohring accepted $1000 and some food, so no basis for upward adjusting under law. Guilty of $10,000-30,000 - he didn’t accept nearly that amount of money - neither the loan or job for his nephew not criminal conduct. Since the jury found not guilty on ??? Not guilty. Not clear exactly what conduct the jury found illegal. According to the newspaper….
Sedwick: I only mentioned newspaper articles because you mentioned them in your appeals.
John Henry Browne: No, in your order about our conflict of interest argument you mentioned the newspaper articles. Unusual to rely on newspaper article - I should point out there are jurors here present today - $1000 got on way home from the pub.
For the court to suggest that there was $5000 or more would be a guess what the jury decided.
Whether there is more than one bribe or not, the Govt.’s case supports our permission - “If you find a series of payments” that is usually considered just one bribe. If you accept my reasoning, his sentencing raise would be 17- 23 months, series 18?
Otherwise level 20 - 33- ? Months
Bottini - [Prosecutor #1]
Pre 2006 , or course relevant, in the indictment, charged, jury convicted on him.
Multiple bribes, we argued this in Anderson and Kott unsuccessfully so we understand reasoning. But this is different. This had nothing to do with ppt. What Allen did was from time to time give Kohring money when he needed it. He remembered giving Vic Kohring $600-700 on several occasions. Doesn’t mean they weren’t a bribe. Giving the money because he felt sorry, but also to grease him. Knowing full well he would have a time to come and ask him for something. Vic Kohring was choking the bill? And he asked him to let it go. He asked him not to run against Lyda Green. Clearly a multiple bribe situation.
Sullivan: [Prosecutor #2] Browne’s arugment that there should be no enhancement, because only took $1000 bribe at Island Pub. Specifically related to $17,000 loan that he was asking for - we charged it as an attempt crime because he didn’t get the amount. Browne says because there was an acquital on Charge 2? - evidence was prsented on other counts, thus there should be a four level enhancement to $29,000.
Sedwick: It seems law clear that court should consider evidence whether it happened. Even the SC says that if preponderance of evidence, the court should consider it even if acquitted. I’ll give Browne a chance to respond. Is it your review I misunderstand the law?
Browne: That’s a tough questions. Your Honor could consider the weather in Anchorage because it is kind of gloomy today.
Sedwick: I won’t.
Browne: We do not believe that the court can find a preponderance of evidence. Mr. Allen never testified. Interesting, government changed the word ‘loan’ to payment. I thought interesting. That’s the language in the superseding indictment - payment - we know there was no payment. Kohring said, over and over again, everything has to be aboveboard. Nothing from Allen that he considered any requests by Vic Kohring to do anything. I believe it would be a stretch…. [sounding much less certain here]
Sedwick: Having sat through the trial. I come away with a different assessment than Mr. Browne does. He saw this $17,000 as a way to deal with his financial problems. Despite Mr. Browne’s very able arguments, I overrule the objections and adopt all the statements. That means 24, Criminal history category of 1, the lowest. Advisory is 51-63 months.
If the govt. Knows of any victim that would liked to be heard.
Would like to hear the attorney’s ideas for sentencing:
John Henry Browne: No secret we will be appealing whatever happened. Based on what you just ruled, and I assume that you included the multiple bribes.
Browne: Object to courts intervening in proceedings at all.
Browne: We are asking for the court to depart from the sentencing guideline and reasons in our brief.
Sedwick: Principle one being abberant behavior.
Browne: Thank goodness the SC has now given courts discretion. I’m happy to see it back. Doesn’t mean I agree with it. I would...point out, today, Mr. Kohring has hitchhiked to court. The door of the truck he borrowed. The door fell off. He hitch hiked.
He is residing with his parents on a doublewide couch, humiliated. Meanwhile, Bill Allen, with $400million he was allowed to keep, the govt. Perhaps because Veco is so involved in the oil industry, has given Veco a pass. While my client is sleeping on a couch. I note that his sentencing has been continued to July again. You saw examples of Kott, Allen, Smith behavior on tape, how they talk, drink, behave on tape. You certainly never saw that of Kohring. He never used one bad word. No matter what happens, Allen has $400 million in his pocket. Mr. Kohring gets to pass on to his relatives debts. Jurors in the newspaper said if they understood the sentencing consequences, they would have taken their job differently.
He spent a decade as a dedicated legislators. Letters say how hard working he was. There were over 50 bankers boxes or more between Kohring and constituents. The letters also say, though you didn’t allow us to present any of this to the jury. Mr. Kohring has a mantra “Let me know what I can do for you.” I know politicians have a tendency to say things like that, though not to the extent Vic Kohring does. Does have obligations and responsibilities to parents- Alzheimer's dad - and facing divorce from his wife.
No question it is aberrant behavior.
Question for the court whether that should be a basis for departure. Drink of water your honor. The clmate I came to try this case was someone incendiary, because of Anderson case. You were critical of Kott - swearing, etc - and that he wasn’t honest. Not the case here. Kohring didn’t testify. Certaininly 8 months in jail or home detention is a significant penalty… Are there other issues you want me to cover now?
Sedwick: Self surrender. There is a questions about release status pending appeal, I will considere today.
John Henry Browne: Mr. Kohring has preexisting defect in spine in his back. You know because of his surgery reason for $17,000. Mr. Kohring was in an auto accident a week before trial, and I was driving, the only accident in 30 years, I was at fault, and he needs surgery again. He could accomplish that in 45 days, not longer than self surrender takes. You want to hear from Mr. Kohring first?
Sedwick: Yes, but from government lawyers first.
John Henry Browne: Sought advice from myself and Wayne Anthony Ross… He is very concerned about the conflict of interest issue. He’s been advised by some that…. That may not set well with the court. We have put that forward about what you should have told us before and we would have asked for you to be ….. Kohring is not angry. He’s Andy Griffith. He’s not angry, just disappointed. He has a right to talk about his feelings and that the court will listen and understand. I will wait to talk about the bail issue.
aberrant behavior issue: This was a four year conduct. Not aberrant, he knew if he told Allen he needed help, he’d get it. He did this over and over for four years. Mr. Browne says well, compare this to Allen.
Not true. We went over this in detail. Veco didn’t get a pass. He sold the company at huge discount, because government wouldn’t give a pass. His family situation is nothing unusual. The fact is that he has family here, in state, his sister lives in Palmer.
He offers to help everyone. Modus operandi for Kohring. What is different is that the offer is directly to Allen and smith. After Easter Egg money, he offered to help Allen and Veco.
Contrast between the Kott trial and Kohring tapes, granted, he’s not Pete Kott when it comes to the colorful language, but you saw a guy who was politely corrupt. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t corrupt because he doesn’t swear. The fact that he’s - Andy Griffith - I don’t recall any shows where Andy Griffith took cash from anyone. He may be polite, but still corrupt.
Sullivan: Mr. Kohring convicted of multiple instances. I could talk about corrupting public process at great length. But anything I say would pale in comparison to that one snapshot of him taking money from Allen and asking “What can I do for you?” It says it all about Kohring and about the level of corruption in the legislature at that time. You’ve heard a lot about ppt - billions of dollars of tax revenue for the state - that snapshot showed that piece of legislation was being decided in the back room of a hotel. Spoke volumes about Vic Kohring, that he was willing to sell his office for gain,
Videos showed other traits - He was a manipulating and calculating person when it served his purpose. Timed visits when Veco needed something. Those are times he asked for things. He also knows how to play the pauper. He gave Smith and Allen song and dance about his conditions. Never told them that he was making $100K in per dieman and sleeping on couch by choice. Frequent flier at ethics office. He knew what he was doing.
Not aberrant behavior, at least 4 cash payments 2002-2006. How many times did we hear phone calls from Vic Kohring he was willing to help Allen and Smith. Vic Kohring’s illeagal conduct clear and the guilty found him guilty.
We asked tha integrity and honesty should have some meaning. The only way to make that image of dishonesty goes away when Vic Kohring goes away. We ask for 60 months.
Sedwick: Vic Kohring
Vic Kohring: Honorable Judge Sedwick, not here to plead for mercy. Instead, to plead my innocence. I was stunned to learn you were married to one of my greatest enemies. You were legally bound to excuse yourself. Furthermore you lived across the street from the governments star witness. I’m so disappointed that the person who holds the fate is married to the person whose job I eliminated.
Then this week’s latest motion you denied. The juror who regretted his decision.
I will admit, I showed poor judgment when I accepted cash for my daughter from someone I thought was my friend who betrayed me. I didn’t live up to my high standards. I never once voted for PPT. My words, How can I help? Were my mantra. Ironic that my words are now being used against me. Intended to be helpful.
The resutling conviction has destroyed me. Cost to me is approaching $half a million, all over $1000. But my spirit is not broken. We did all with integrity. Just an honest presentation of the facts. I used to believe in my government. I do not hold it in high regard as I used to. I believe in the principles. I won’t express remorse for something I didn’t do. The truth will only be reviewed if heard before jurors without bias. I thank the jurors but want to let them know they didn’t hear all the evidence.
I for one shall not rest until justice prevails. I didn’ nothing criminal. Iwas naive. I assert my innocence. All I ask for is to be treated fairly. All I ask for is a fair trial which I believe would find me innocent.
Sedwick: As lawyers know, sentence requires applying all criteria.
1. Nature and circumstances of offense: Key criterion. Jury shows, Vic Kohring violated the public trust. Reflected in fact Congress has provided that most serious sentence is 20 years.
2. I agree that Vic Kohring’s objective was to serve interests of his constituents. Unfortunately, at the end he sold out the trust he worked so hard to earn, but participating in the relationship with Veco. Browne suggests that he was just doing what he always did - helping people. But difference between lawful and unlawful helpful. Since he spent so much time at the ethics office. It is clear to me, despite what he said, that he knew what he did was wrong.
I think there is no risk of Vic Kohring committing future crime. He has learned he must be careful to help people whose objectives are lawful.
Must consider impact on others. To reinforce message to people elected to serve the public.
Even Mr. Browne believes some period of incarceration is required.
Court has to consider what is available. Probation is legally authorized. Serious nature makes probation outside the bounds. Incarceration and supervised release left.
I have determined guideline 51-62 months. Instructed by congress to avoid disparities. All judges across the country consider the guidelines, even if not absolutely bound.
I have to provide for restitution. No way to pay that here.
Finally, Mr. Kohring's physical condition. Given Vic Kohring’s modest financial condition now, it appears he’ll get as good or better care in prison than he could afford himself. If he does need a surgical procedure soon, and plans on that and apparently has the wherewithal to pay for that.
Taking that all into account, I have to say does not deserve same as Kott or Anderson, behavior not as egregious. Clear to me that his desire to help shouldn’t have included things Veco wanted to do.
Finally, it has to be sufficient but no greater than necessary to achieve goals congress has set forth. Lower range is appropriate, 42 months is appropriate. Is one meets requirements of the statute, is no greater than necessary.
Appropriate to hear motion on Docket 181.
John Henry Browne: In recent past, I know you and most attorneys deal with people not released. Unusual for me. Usually a way uphill battle. Very uncomfortable to make arguments because of what is alleged.
Sedwick: Go ahead.
John Henry Browne: I would suggest there are substantial issues on appeal.
Sedwick: You can speak at length. I’ve read them.
John Henry Browne: There are meritorious issues. Novel, that trial judge has made opinion on his own that he is fair. And it is a meritorious issue. Search warrant issue is serious. Controlling law is 18USC…. Is he a flight risk or danger.
2. Is the appeal meritorious and not for the purpose of delay. You heard what he said to you, sticking to his guns. He believes he has meritorious issues on appeal.
3. Raise serious issues of law and fact.
I think he meets the criteria for meritorious issues on appeal.
He’s a very law abiding citizen outside of this issue.
He doesn’t have the $500,000 fees that Mr. Allen has. I’ll continue to help him.
Sullivan: As the court is aware, we received this motion late last night. Would like to respond in writing.
Sedwick: This is not complicated
Sullivan: We conceded he is not a flight risk
We take issue whether he has raised an issue that will be reversed or reduced sentence. We disagree. Laundry list of issues have all been fully vetted by the parties here. We believe the court has correctly handled them here.
Sedwick: As both noted the statute that controls here 18USC…. With exception of certain crimes irrelevant here.
1. Not flight risk or danger - Vic Kohring meets that
2. I do have to find not taken for purposes of delay that is likely to result in reversal or new trial with lesser penalty.
A. Not taken for delay
With respect to related issues Browne and others have written. I believe my decisions isn’t at all unusual.
Good candidate for self surrender. He won’t be required to surrender any earlier than…
Monday June 30, 2008. Because Mr. Kohring needs to have surgery. That should give him adequate time to have the surgery and recuperate.
Supervised release for two years. Sentence to run concurrent on each account. Meaning he will serve all sentences at the same time. On release he shall be replaced on supervised…. Speaking way too fast.
1. Cooperate in collection of DNA sample
2. Searches by probation etc. Offers on reasonable suspicion…
Does not have ability to pay fine. Required. $300.
If his condition is such, he may surrender before June 30, I am highly unlikely to extend this no matter what the medical condition might be.
Any other matters before I mention appeal rights.
You have right to appeal….
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
But then the last one started and I got sucked right in. Patterns 3. It had some visual and musical style - essentially it told its story using the medium of film. It wasn't the moving picture adaptation of something else. That's what makes a good movie for me. I don't completely understand it, but that's good too. I do have quirky film taste and this was a quirky film. Leaving I overheard someone very confused about this last film. It was the one that made it all worthwhile for me.
It turns out there is a Patterns and Patterns2 as well. You can check an even shorter clip of each at the Patterns3 link above.
I decided to do this post rather than try to comment on John Henry Browne's motion to allow Kohring to stay out of prison while the conviction is on appeal. There was just too much rehash of old stuff to do it even partial justice with the time I had. One criterion was that the appeal was legitimate and not just a way to stall. It looks like a lot of stall to me. Maybe Browne is much smarter than I think. But at this point I just think he's smarter than Kohring who, presumably, keeps paying him for all these motions that are being filed. And probably doing nothing but fattening Browne's bank account. But, I could be wrong.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
So, as much as I was tempted to write about Kohring's swipe at Sedwick I've resisted. All I can say is this: They started out with a long brief alleging all sorts of improprieties by the FBI in an attempt to quash the evidence collected in the search of his Wasilla office. Things like being under arrest in his office and not allowed to call his attorney or go to the bathroom. All of that was refuted by the prosecution in a brief and later in court. It was full of holes. I can't help but believe the same is true of this latest attempt. I sat through almost six weeks of trials in Sedwick's courtroom last year. This judge was the most patient, respectful, and fair person I've seen in a long time. And it never occurred that Judge Sedwick might be related to this Sedwick who he says was "worst political rival and enemy" until the end of the trial? How many Sedwicks do you know? I certainly would be asking questions if the judge hearing my case had the same name as my worst political rival and enemy. I wouldn't wait until a few days before my sentencing to bring it up.
I was in the courtroom for the closing arguments. I don't recall anything different about Kohring - that he appeared more agitated because of the presence of this worst enemy whose name is Sedwick. How much research do you have to do to find out that the judge and the former commissioner with the same uncommon name are related? I'm sorry, this just sounds so totally bogus to me.
If Kohring really wants to know who's taking advantage of him, I'd suggest he look closely at his attorney who's lifted over $100,000 from Kohring. How many more billable hours is this new little escapade? At one point Browne required that the prosecution bring every single FBI agent who monitored the tapes to fly to Alaska to verify the tapes. He was quoted as not caring about making the government go to great expense. (The attorneys in the other two cases waived this requirement and let one agent verify all the tapes.) There's a reason that most people who are indicted plea and never go to trial. It seems to me with a different attorney, Kohring might have saved himself the trial and a lot of money.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
The media crowd around Kohring (left) and his attorney John Henry Browne. Kohring thanked people and apologized. It was hard to hear - he speaks softly and there was lots of noise.
The media were waiting in the Federal building waiting for Kohring and his attorney to come through the security for the District Court part of the building (no cameras allowed through the security.)
Here they are clustered around the security exit.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I've been pretty conservative in my predictions in the last two trials. With the first case, when I tried to make sense of the jury instructions and then match the facts of the case to what exactly had to be proven, I figured it would take the jury a while to even figure out what their job was. And with twelve people all giving their opinions, I figured it would be several days at best.
The got the case on Friday afternoon and by noonish Monday they had a verdict. The same was true for Kott. Does that mean the juries didn't worry about the details? That they were just much faster at figuring them out than I was? Who knows? But published interviews with some jurors suggests that the tapes were the big factor. And people I've talked to in and around the trial plus others who have seen some tapes on the internet just look at me as if I'm slow when I ask what they think the verdict will be. "Just look at him taking the money in the tape" is their response.
That said, let me try to figure out where we are, without going in as much detail about the parts of the law that have to be proved - since I don't have the jury instructions.
Is he a public official? Yes, that's not a problem.
Did he get something of value in exchange for his services as a legislator? Let's see what I can reconstruct without looking at my notes.
1. He got the $1000 at the restaurant in Douglas. We know this from Allen's testimony, Rick Smith's collaboration of it, and, if I remember right, Allen and Smith talking about it on one of the tapes.
2. He got the Easter egg money - $100 from Allen and '6 or 7' (hundred) from Allen which we see on tape. But we can't really see how much Allen gave Kott.
3. Allen says he gave Kohring '6 or 7' on various occasions. We only have Allen's word on this.
4. There is the $17,000 credit card problem that Kohring asks help on. Joyce Anderson from the ethics committee told us that 'something of value' includes loans. He didn't get it, but he asked for it. I don't remember all the details of the laws, but this would seem at least to fit the extortion part.
5. There's the job he got for his nephew that was valued at about $3000. No one has presented evidence to even suggest the nephew isn't a really great guy, but it seems clear from the tapes that Kohring asked Allen about getting Aaron a job, he got the resume into Allen, and Smith notified Kohring that Aaron got the job. Kohring notified Aaron. And today Kari McDonald told us it was highly unlikely that Aaron would have gotten a job without the recommendation from Allen.
6. There's the truck that Kohring asked for help on, which also went nowhere.
So, what legislative actions did they get in return? And as I recall the law says it doesn't matter if a) he would have performed them in the same way without the 'payment' or b) if he doesn't actually carry out the promises.
Kohring made promises all the time. What can I do for you? Let me know if you need anything. And he did this almost simultaneously with saying thank you for something he was being given. Did he actually promise or do something concrete that would show Allen's influence?
1) It seems like Allen was able to get Kohring to release HB 195 from committee, even though he was angry because he thought his credit for the bill was being hijacked by Tom Wagoner. This may not be completely clear. The linkage needs to be made simply.
2) Allen did have clear influence on Kohring in regard to his aide Eric Musser. He did check and try to get the complaint withdrawn but felt it was too late. This all was clearly spelled out in the Prewitt tape. Whether he actually fired Musser is not clear. It was mentioned that Musser has tried to get his job back, but what I remember is from Bottini or Sullivan, not from a witness.
3) He offered to lobby other legislators and said he did - like Kevin Meyers.
4) I think Browne has done an effective job in obfuscating Kohring's voting record on PPT. In the Kott case it was clear from the detailed review of the House Journal that Kott actually changed his vote from 'no' to 'yes' at the end. But the defense used up lots of time to set up the jury for this. I don't know how the prosecution will handle this, in part, because I'm still not sure whether his votes on ppt reflect Allen's influence or not. Minimally, there are statements where he promises to be there for them. Despite Kott's skepticism.
I've got class tonight, so I don't have time to do the same with the defense's attack on the evidence.
I will say, though, that the jury this time took a lot more notes, and I suspect that they will use those notes. This could mean the deliberation will take longer as they sort through their notes and compare their different takes on things. This jury is also older, and while I haven't done a good job of comparing my notes of those what juror prospects said to who actually got on the jury, my sense is there is a lot more experience on this jury. They know about how bureaucracies work. This probably isn't good for the defense.
Based on the evidence I've seen - and the jurors have been instructed not to reach any conclusions until the trial is completely over - at this point guilty seems like the right verdict. But I don't say that with the vinictiveness I read in blog comments and letters to the editor. Yes, these legislators have violated the public trust. But Kohring's constituents reelected him knowing he was under suspicion. Michael Carey's piece in the ADN today ends with:
Sharon Cissna told me that this was a systemic problem. All the people of Alaska share resposibility for that. We've underfunded all the watchdog groups - the ombudsman, the APOC, etc. - and we've elected politicians who pander to our basic fears and desires - no new taxies, cut government - while we've been feeding off the oil pipeline and our federal funds pipeline. If Kohring deserves to go to prison, Alaskans who voted for legislators who dismantled all the watchdog agencies, and Alaskans who didn't vote at all because it was easier to say, "They're all corrupt," bear a great deal of responsibility too.
You might look at the FBI tapes of Vic Kohring in action and decide Vic doesn't belong in jail. But I don't think anybody, including Vic's lawyer John Henry Browne, could look at those tapes and conclude Vic Kohring ever belonged in the Alaska Legislature.
We allowed these people to get elected - people who were beholden or quickly became beholden to rich men with agendas.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
It starts with Prosecutor Joe Bottini. If you want to hear the government's case against Kohring, this is the government's story.
Bottini is followed by Defense Attorney John Henry Browne. The two opening arguments took about 80 minutes altogether. Now you can compare what Browne sounds like to the newspaper man described in today's ADN article by Lisa Demer. What does it mean when the paper writes about the defense attorney instead of about the defendant?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
Court Calendar for Wednesday, October 24, 2007
9:00 AM 3:07-CR-00055-JWS Judge Sedwick Anchorage Courtroom 3
USA vs. VICTOR H. KOHRING
TRIAL BY JURY - DAY 3 (DEPS)
Basically this was a technical session in which the Prosecution was introducing witnesses who verified exhibits.
Dan Dickinson, former State Tax Director, and consultant on ppt tax and gas pipeline
Gave background about Alaska’s oil tax regimen and the reasons for changing it. This witness also set the context for the legislative session and special sessions. He also answered a question I ‘d had about whether PPT stood for Petroleum Production Tax or Petroleum Profit Tax. Apparently it has meant both.
Suzanne Lowell, Chief clerk of House of Reps.
Verified House Journal documents about voting on the PPT bill in the regular legislative session and the two special sessions in 2006.
Kelley Woodward, FBI, intelligence analyst, in Anchorage
Jessica Debra Ann Newton, FBI Intelligence analyst, Anchorage Division (twice)
Joel Stephen, Texas Spec Agent FBI,
William Bondurant California FBI, special agent, LA division, three years
Tom Szot, FBI, special agent, 8 years, Chicago
Frank DePodesta, FBI special agent, Chicago (twice)
Joseph Thelen, retired FBI, 24 years, organized crime, NYC
First four tape exhibits - basically Kohring asking if he can do anything to help Veco or Bill Allen to let him know.
Ex#5 - brings up his nephew getting an internship with Veco, is told he needs to have a resume and Rick Smith tells him what needs to be on the resume and to get it in soon because, if I got it right, they are already filling these positions.
Ex#6 - RS and PK in room 604, RS briefly talks to VK on phone.
Kott: He hasn’t voted on a tax bill in 12 years, He hasn’t voted for a tax bill since he was born.
Smith: If he’s needed he said he’ll be there.
Ex#7 Voice Mail: Kohring: Left envelope with your name, contains my nephew’s resume you asked for and the Dittman poll on the oil industry and tax, you may already have it. Thanks for the nice dinner last night and in regards to my nephew, thank you very much.
Ex#8 Kohring telling Smith how he has pushed through an amendment that adds tax credits and says he thinks the oil companies won’t object because it means more money in their pockets and that he and Theresa worked three months to get this done
Ex#9 Kohring saying he’ll do whatever is needed to help out.
The FBI witnesses were verifying that the CD’s with the recordings are accurate copies of what is on the original audio and/or video, and that the transcripts are accurate reflections of the recordings too. This was fairly tedious as they had to repeat the same set of questions of each witness, each time they verified a specific tape.
Some return because the Prosecutors want to play the tapes in what appears to be chronological order. So they only verify one cd at a time.
In the previous two trials, one FBI agent was sufficient to verify all the tapes, but the defense attorney in pretrial motions would not accept that and insisted that the FBI agent who actually made the recording has to verify it. So we have agents being flown in from all over the US to do that tape by tape today.
John Henry Browne has been asking some of the agents if there is anything on the front of the materials that identifies who made the recording and basically, it appears, there isn’t. I guess he’s trying to raise doubts. Obviously there is is some way to connect the tape with the recorder, but the prosecutors haven’t followed up to clarify that.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Even today, the phrase "Eddie Haskell" is known to refer to an insincere brown-noser. . .He was known for his neat grooming—hiding his shallow and sneaky character. Typically, Eddie would greet his friends' parents with overdone, good manners and often a compliment such as, "That's a lovely dress you're wearing, Mrs. Cleaver."
It's the parts in italics that I was thinking of. I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to base any of the "shallow and sneaky character" parts of this description to Kohring's attorney. And after 50 years, I'm sure he's had time to work through all that.
First quick impression:
Both the prosecution and the defense made strong opening arguments. The prosecution said it was about abusing public trust. About Kohring getting money from Veco and then offering to help Veco in the legislature. He did a nice job of talking about the context - the gas pipeline, the ppt legislation, the importance of it all, the relationship between the Governor and the oil companies, etc. Well, after sitting through the Anderson and Kott cases, I got it; whether the jurors with much less background could follow it I'm not sure. It did seem pretty straightforward though. He also said the trial was unique because so much of the evidence was on tape - audio and video. It wasn't clear to me how much was actual taking money was on tape - at least one incident where Allen gave Kohring $1000 - and how much is going to rely on others - mainly Allen I guess - testifying that Kohring would say he wanted to do something (visit his family in Oregon, for example) but didn't have the money, and Allen would take out his wallet and peel off hundreds.
The defense began by saying it was an honor to try this case, something about participating in government. We get to vote and we get to be involved in cases like this with public officials. And that the jury should feel honored too.
Then basically he said his client was a decent man who didn't smoke, drink, or swear. But he was still good friends with Allen (who did all those things and Browne quoted him liberally to make the point) because Kohring has a Russian wife and step daughter and Allen then had a Russian girlfriend with a college age daughter.
Another key point was that Kohring had signed a no taxes pledge and would never have voted for the ppt bill because it was an increase in taxes. (If they changed it so it was called a fee he could have gone along.) He spent a fair amount of time trying to show that there were the sleazy, alcoholic, cussing bad guys and their legislative tools. "I own their asses" was quoted about everyone under the son including Don Young and Ted Stevens. He talked about how much money Ben Stevens got paid by Veco (he said $250,000 a year, but my recollection is that $200,000 was the total over a number of years. ) And how much Tom Anderson got paid, both for doing nothing. In comparison Kohring is so poor he lives in his office in Juneau and in a trailer in Wasilla and doesn't drink, smoke, swear, etc.
Clearly, hearing Kott and Anderson use profanity on the tapes and hearing them agree to the various deals made the prosecutors case much stronger. Browne is trying to distinguish his client as not one of those guys. We'll have to see what the prosecution has.
I've got a class tonight, so I don't have too much time here. I'll post my notes of the opening arguments below. NOTE: These are very rough. I did use spell checker to correct some of the worst. There is a lot missing - I just couldn't keep up. But it will give you a little flavor of the arguments. If the Daily News or APRN gets the days CD of the day from the Court today, maybe they'll have the audio available.
Prosecutor Joseph Bottini's Opening Argument
About misuse of public trust for personal gain. Using his office to ask for and accept things of value from people who needed his help.
Public official simply cannot use that office for their own personal financial gain. That is indeed what Mr. K. did. He accept things of value, in exchange for be ready willing and able to help people
Charged with conspiracy, bribery, extortion under color of official light, and attempted extortion.
In essence, charged with selling his public office, in exchange of using his position to help the people who gave him
Prove it through his own actions, his own words.
Central theme: Efforts to get natural gas pipeline built. Exxon, Conoco Philips, Fall 95 condition reached. Conditioned, - something had to take place before deal could happen. Producers wanted oil tax revamped. Wanted certainty for next several decades. Deal -tax rate 20% and fixed for number of years and offset by 20% credit for expenses.
Agreement had to be ratified by legislature. Key issue in 2006 legislative session Jan-May 2006. You will hear repeated refs. 20-20 agreement, Govt’s plan, as 20-20, or PPT, if you hear witnesses or recording using those words, that’s what they are talking about.
Also learn a lot about a company called Veco Corp. Basically an oil field services business - made most money providing services for oil production in AK. Veco’s bread and butter. Bill Allen CEO, basically started company in late 1960s and built it to 2005-06 Veco had 5000 employees world wide, back bone in AK.
Rick Smith, VP for govt. affairs for VECO. Both will testify as witnesses. Tell more in a minute.
Veco’s clients were primary oil producers - BP, Exxon, C-P who made the deal. Veco stood to make 100s of millions of $ from construction of pipeline. Before that could happen, this agreement had to be ratified and passed into law by the legislature. Bill A, RS and Veco were pushing hard in 2006 to get this passed. They pushed too hard, went over the line. The bribed a number of elected public officials. They both have pled guilty and they’ll tell you who they admitted paying bribes to. And that they have agreed to cooperate with the govt. what their expectations are with regard to their cooperation with the govt.
BA started getting active in politics about 20 years ago. Hiring a lobbyist. L = person who communicates info to legislators, tries to advance the ball for his clients. As years go on, Allen gets more active. Organizing fund raisers, Veco employees active with political contributions. Veco and Allen and Smith got in trouble. Veco started reimbursing employees for their political contributions. You can’t do that because corps can’t contribute to political campaigns.
They became so active, that they ended up very year going down to J. setting up shop. They rented suite 604 of the Baranof hotel. Use that as base of operations. Set up shop. You will hear a lot about their conduct in Suite 604.
Case is not about BA and RS. About VK
Elected first in 2006 entering 12th year in legislature. VK generally had a strong anti-tax philosophy. Also strongly in favor of oil industry. Allen and Smith became very supportive, of his campaigns, contributions to his campaign. They considered him a friend.
As 2006 leg. session kicked off, this critical piece of legislation was their primary focus. 20-20. They knew the vote was going to be close. Every vote counted. Every vote critical. Including Kohring’s. Despite the fact that he was generally supportive, they were concerned. He was such an anti-tax advocate, that he would think 20% too hight He might want lower tax.
Would be assigned to Special Committee on Oil and Gas. Kohring head of committee But bill going to Nat. Resources, not his committee. They knew Kohring was upset, that he was being bypassed. That’s why they decided to give him number of benefits. Gave VK cash, to keep VK loyal, that he would support the ppt bill as it went thru the legislature.
Like any trial, you’ll hear from a number of witnesses. Case unique in that bulk of evidence is real time recordings - audio and video - made during legislative session. Made under authority to do this. You’ll learn what govt. has to do to get permission to tape. Difficult to get these. Have to satisfy court that probably cause that criminal conversations will have to take place. Not done lightly. Even when authorized, still can’t listen to everything. Some kinds of conversations you can’t listen to.
Back in 2005 FBI sought authorization to put tap on RS’s cell phone. Then BA’s cell and then home phone. Jan. 2006 application for electronic surveillance in Suite 604 of the Baranof hotel.
From these wire taps and the bug, recorded a number of conversations, including between RS, BA, and VC. In some that we play for you, the language is pretty harsh. These two gentlemen - RS and BA particularly, were pretty profane
Pipeline contingent on 20-20 negotiation. RS and BA go down to J and set up shop in S. 604 in January FBI gets authorization to put a bug for audio and video in that suite.
PPT bill incorporated agreement - introduced to leg. on 2/21. Was not going to Kohring’s committee, but to Nat Resources. BA and RS concerned about VK’s feeling
They take K to island pub in Douglas AK, and gives VK $1000 in cash. Allen will tell you, not the first time he’s given K cash during legislature. He will tell you he gave K cash on 3 or 4 occasions. Always in K’s leg. office, only BA and VK their, $600-800, when K would tell Allen, “ I want to do something, but can’t afford it.” Allen would peel off the money and give it to him. Allen kept several thousand dollars in his wallet.
Reason he gave him the money - he felt sorry for Kohrning an his financial situation
But also because he knew he could keep K. loyal to him. 2002-6, same time he was giving K cash. Also asked K to do things for him, as a legislator, not as a private citizen.
2003, K introduced piece of leg. in house relating to royalties on CI oil platforms. A competing bill in the Senate. Upset that another leg. had highjacked his legislation. Referred to K’s committee. K. sits on bill in anger that someone else had hijacked his bill. He was asked by murkowski admin member, and BA asked him to release the bill and K did.
Also asked K on two occasions not to run against Lyda Green. Twice. Mr. K had announced his intention to run for the senate. He went to K twice and asked him not to run against Green. K. stayed in his house seat.
K hired a leg staffer who’d worked for a prior legislator. They filed a complaint against the legislator. BA angry about this because he liked legislator. BA called K and asked him to ?drop the complaint?
You will hear that these were just gifts between friends. Had nothing to do with his job as legislator. Listen to how these people act, what they say, how he brings up his problems, and how he promises to do things in return. It’s up to you to judge whether these are criminal activities.
2006 legislative session. Allen takes K out to dinner Feb 23 gives him $1000. March 3, Allen and Smith in 604, stressing out about passing ppt bill, this is our future, we gotta produce right now, profane, Smith: I know, we gotta get dirty, we gotta produce. BA: You know, just like the other night with old VK, you take off an I gave him a $1000. I know you did, thats why I left. And he will kiss our ass. They meant that they knew he would be behind them on this ppt legislation.
Another video March 20, 2006, Pete Kott another legislator with RS. You will hear RS’s end of conversation to meet VK in lobby in half hour. PK knows VK on phone. You know you aren’t going to hear VK on that bill. He hasn’t voted for a tax bill in 12 years. NO, no, we’ve talked to him. If you agree on the vote, I’ll vote for you. We’ve talked to him and he said he’d be there if we needed him to be there.
Mr. K ]’s nephew got a job with Veco. BA and RS will tell you how this came up. VK asked if his nephew can get a job there. You’ll hear on the phone. Getting his nephew’s resume. “Thanks for the good things you do for me.” I’ve dropped off my nephew’s resume. Call if I can do anything to help. Let me know what I can do. Can I lobby on your behalf? Keep in mind ppt bill in legislator.
Another call. I stand by ready to help.
March 29 VK calls RS I want to talk to you and BA. Serious matter for me. RS and BA agree to meet. Video March 30, 2006 - VK comes up, sits down. I’m in trouble with personal finances. $17,000 on credit card agency, they’re ready to sue, will hurt me politically. You guys got any ideas? They talk about possibility of cosigning on loan to get him out. Maybe hire him at VEco. As they talk about this. They also say they have to be discreet. CAn’t let people know they are helping K financially. K: I won’t do anything that will raise red flags. Then K brings up his desire to visit family over easter break. BA says I like to put $ in plastic easter eggs and go find them. BA asks RS for $100s. BA gives to VK. VK says thanks. I just sent my step daughter money for a gscout uniform. BA hands a stack of currency to VK “let me help you out.” K: what can I do at this point to help you guys? Just keep lobbying my colleagues for the governor’s plan. Talk about specific legislators he was close to he could lobby. He provides inside info on where dif. legs are on their support for ppt.
Next day phone call: Want to let you guys know I’m doing what I can to help you out. I’m scheduling appointments. I’ll keep lobbying the best I can.” This is the day after they gave him lots of cash.
Reg. session ran to May 10. PPT didn’t pass. Conversation between RS and BA on May 8. If this goes thru, we’re going to have to take care of a number of people, BW, Ben Stevens, VK - got to figure out what to do with him. Regular session ends w/o ppt. Murkowski calls a special session to continue to consider ppt leg. Toward the end of this 1st spec. session. PPT bill jacked around and comes out at 22.8%. Concerned that the producers will walk away at tax that high. So now they want to kill the bill. On June 8, late in the evening, BA comes up with plan to mess this up.
Plan: If i can get VK away from the capital so he isn’t available, it’s going to die because every member is supposed to be there. Mr. Allen’s end of the conversation. How about you and I go for a ride. Why not just don’t show up. PK and RS say that won’t work. They’ll figure out what’s going on and call for a vote. All you’re going to do is hurt VK and you’ll get into trouble.
Can’t reach K. BA goes to McDonalds and meets VK. On way back to hotel. He pulls out $5-600 out of his pocket and sticks into VKs hands. BAck to 604 talking about how plan wouldn’t work, Allen turns to VK and says, “I wouldn’t done it to you.” VK says, ”I would have done it for you anyway Bill.”
Aug. agents went to Wasilla and interviewed him. Asked if he ever received any money from BA or RS for personal use and campaign expenses. When they asked him to elaborate, VK said, I’d like to reflect on that. Later he says, I only received personal gifts, the value was in hundreds of $ and he didn't keep track. Had asked for help on the $17K credit card debt. The only time I ever took cash was that one time in the suite. It was about $100 bucks or so.
As you listen to evidence in trial. Keep an open mind. Render a true and just verdict in this case. You will find him guilty of receiving benefits in return do favors for those supporting him.
Defense Attorney John Henry Browne's Opening Argument
Thank you. I’m honored to be able to participate. It’s an honor for me and you also. Want to thank you for your attention. Interesting that you aren’t taking notes for opening. That makes sense. What we say is not evidence. I’m going to tell you in context, what I think this case will present to you. Top of jigsaw puzzle. I think this is what is going to look like. But it may not. This is not supposed to be an argument. Just supposed to give you an overview of what I think the jigsaw puzzle looks like.
A little out of context, response to what Botinni said. ONe important thing - evidence will show that there are many legal ways to make political contributions to candidates. One example - Haliburton company donated to Bush and Bush listened to Haliburton company. But that is all legal. As long as you declare. People who contribute to your campaign are people you will want to listen to. Not a lot, but about 8% of the money for his campaign where he was elected 7 times with over 60% of the vote. 8% or less. Still a lot of money. Veco was a contributor to VK like Haliburton contributed to Bush and Environmental Defense fund contributes to Democrats. That’s how it is done and is legal.
Talk about fundraisers will be legal fundraisers. Mr. Allen, I will warn you, i will use some of the language. Allen thought he owned the world. He made comments like “I owned so and so’s ass.” They drank a lot. My client doesn’t drink, doesn’t swear. He says I own politicians’ asses. He includes Don Young and Ted Stevens. I own them. He donated lots of money legitimately to a lot of political campaigns. Responding to what Botinni said. This huge bill very important, economy going down a bit because oil production going down. Lots of people saying we need a pipeline, from all poltiical groups. REason bill didn’t go to Vic’s committee, which it normally would have done, was because BA, RS, Ben STevens didn’t trust Vic Kohring. That group, people’s whose asses were owned by BA, didn’t want it to go to VK’s committee. When PK said to Allen and Smith said, you will never get VK to vote for ppt, he had never voted for a tax in his whole career. PK is laughing at them. Ar you crazy? In one vote, VK was the only legislator in house or senate to vote for ppt. They knew they couldn't send the bill to his committee. He’d signed the American taxpayer’s pledge. Pledge never to vote to increase taxes. People who believe that believe enough money generated thru taxes to take care of things, and if you trim back bureaucracy and $150K executives, you can run the state fine. VK has signed this pledge and lived by it his whole career. I don’t know that the government knew this until recently.
VK never voted for any ppt legislation every. If the object is to get the legislation passed. Important for you to know that VK never voted for it. Ever. They knew he’d never vote for the tax. They knew they had to do everything they could. I ‘ll read it to you: “Don’t use this opportunity to go whacko on us” VK reminds them: That is is position that is his philosophy.
During presentation you just heard, VK never voted for ppt. New info, I never heard it before of any meeting at McDonalds or any effort to get VK to kill bill. Let’s see if they can prove that. I never heard it before.
This intern, did something very symbolic of the integrity of this case. I like that word - integrity - based on several things that never happened. Let me talk to you about the Easter egg. VEry symbolic.
BA felt sorry for Bill. BA cultivated friendship. VK felt a friend of BA. Even though very different life styles - VK doesn’t drink, smoke. Talking about easter, BA, whose been drinking. YOu know what I do with my kids, get little plastic eggs, put money in them and hide them. VK loves his daughter. BA actually talked to VK’s daughter, whose Russian. Mr. K’s wife is russian and step daughter’s is russian. BA’s girlfriend at the time was Russian and her daughter too. Here’s some money. BA will tell you he felt tremendous sadness for VK because VK lives within his means. BA is a multi multi millionaire - at least $100 million. VK sleeps in his office in Juneau. in Wasilla lives in a trailer. BA concerned VK didn’t have enough money to eat.
BA says, here, take some money, put them in the easter eggs. What B. left out of the conversation, VK says thanks a lot. I got the money to go home, we went to church we had an incredible time because I put all the money you gave me into the easter eggs.
If they can be characterized as gifts, there can be no crime there. Another 15 or 20 minutes]
At some point during conversations with BA and RS, um, VK tells them, often, I can’t vote for ppt I can’t vote for any tax. If you want to restructure this legislation, and he believed it was good for AK, and turn it into a fee and not a tax, then it would be something I could support. He tells them that.
Govt. says sometime in 2003, allegation made in last two weeks, Mr. K did something to release a bill from his committee because BA told him too. I believe not evidence to support that, except for BA. In addition to alcohol problems BA had, he had a very serious motorcycle accident without a helmet, BA this millionaire who uses fuck, shit asshole in every sentence. It is his testimony alone that says this.
BA will tell you he made a deal with the govt. to save his children from being prosecuted. Is there anything we love more than our children? BA made a deal with the govt - the G really owns his ass. If he satisfies them he probably won’t go to prison as long as he expects and his children won’t be indicted. And Veco as a corp will not be charged as a defendant. Corps can be charged as defendant. Part of the deal was that VECO would not be charged. Then Veco would be worthless. Who would buy Veco if it was under fed indictment. In addition to the 50-80 million he made from sale of Veco - he was allowed to keep $500,000 to pay for his attorneys. This personally makes me feel really bad. You’re going to plead guilty, make a deal with the govt. your kids not charged, the corp not charged, and you’re going to spend $500K to plead guilty.
BA and RS made a great deal, and this is what you will hear. You’ll hear about people who will kiss their asses, They own, I already told you. Ben STevens Ted Stevens, Pete Kott, and once they threw in Kohring’s name. Ben Stevens had a consulting contract with Veco that gained BS $250,000 a year while he was a legislator.
The money they are talking about giving this guy is less than $3000. They are bragging about people they own. They paid BS $250k/year. They owned Kott because he inflated the bill, he made $10K more graft money to do what BA told him to do. They did vote for ppt. They did take a lot of action for ppt. They did a lot for their $250K. Mr. Anderson also had a contracting job for Veco. Not required to do anything BA will tell you and BS didn’t have to do anything. And they’re giving money to VK for easter eggs.
I don’t know what to say about this allegation bout trying to kill the bill. We’ll see what they say.
He’s known as gentle giant, few people taller than me, he’s one. He’d stay in his office til 2am where he slept because he couldn’t afford a home. He would always return every constituents phone call. When not working in legislature. He’s a sheet rocker. He doesn’t live in a multi-millionaire. He’s a sheet rocker and refuses to be bought. Somewhat controversial because of his no tax pledge. He’s never violated in the seven times he was elected. He will explain to you why. He things taxing corps and individuals hurts economy in the long run. If you really don’t want to hurt the economy you don’t tax individuals too much or corps more than already.
Met ba because of the russian women in their lives and their children. Did legal fundraisers - you’ll hear of APOC - keep in mind only 8% of his campaign money about $80K - came from Veco.
What’s important about, BS made all this money and Anderson made all this money from Veco and Kott also and promised job from Veco, what’s important, they all voted for ppt. Which Botinni admits is what Veco wanted to do. Mr. K never did.
Mr. K would from time to time in his recordings say, “i’ll help you guys try to get this point across. It was the gov’s bill. You understand, I didn’t , these bill oil companies wouldn’t make any investments in the pipeline unless they had certainty thru this ppt bill which VK always voted against. In these tape, if you don’t take them out of context, you’ll know what was said. He says, You know my philosophy you know I can’t vote for this, but I’ll help you get your point across. BP, Conoco, whats the other one? would invest without being taxed. Believed pipeline good for AK.
Checking his notes.
Let’s talk about what was actually said. You heard something about mr.K firing one of his aides because BA told him to Eric Musser, you’ll see from emails, he left, not fired, the emails themselves say, VK wants him to come back to work. But the Govt.s argument is that he was fired, at will employee. Mr. Musser was ragging off some really good friend of ba there were phone calls. VK didn’t know about the complaint. I don’t know if Musser will be awitness or not.
How much time your honor? about 7 min.
Tom Anderson, had a contract with Veco to do nothing
Pete Kott, speaker of the house at one point, inflated one of his invoices, made $10,000 or more.
BW, don't want to talk about him, his case is on hold, you’ll hear about his son in this trial. FBI, BEn stevens, John Cowdery, Bev Masek, Don Young Ted Stevens. With these huge names, and then you have VK on his couch in his trailer.
[He did the next part really fast, and this isn’t even close, but the best I could do. I’m guessing one point was to show the profanity these people used and how they bragged about owning all these politicians.]
Direct quote: conversation between Smith and Allen: March 6. They have all this stuff.
S: Well you will always coer my ass
BA; you too
S: Thank you cuz, I told that little gal, whose all fucked up,
BA: Which one?
S: Theres’ som any of them
BA How many times have we gotten out of spots
S: Oh Jesus
BA O Shit, even before with old Jerry Ward. That was all horseshit
S: We got PK
BA And on and on
What about Rick Halford, we owned him
S: The list goes on and on
But we’re still here, absolutely
S; I don’t have a prob.
A: We know what the gov wants. And we got Ted. And we got DY?
Who’s name is not mentioned in that diatribe? VK.
Go on about who they own. Kott. Anderson, Give them a fake contract.
Anderson asking about getting $ for doing nothing. Lots of money. Anderson is worried about this. Don’t sorry. Is Ben stevens worried about this shit? Hell no. Then why should Anderson be worried.
These are the guys who got bribed, not VK
Keep in mind all of them voted for and lobbied for Veco and ppt. He did not.
Then discussions about how VK told them time and time again, he would not vote for it because it was a tax. How he wanted to borrow, went to BA because V thought he was a friend. That went no where because they knew he wouldn’t vote for them.
OK my time’s up, you’ve been paying close attention. VK’s life changed completely when he borrowed BA’s truck. Tells FBI complete truth in 2.5 interview, could be charged with perjury if he lied. Wasn’t charged. They took 30,000 documents and didn’t find anything.
Please, please keep an open mind. This is really important.
Monday, October 22, 2007
|9:00 AM||3:07-CR-00055-JWS||Judge Sedwick||Anchorage Courtroom 3|| |
USA vs. VICTOR H. KOHRING
TRIAL BY JURY - DAY 1
Today was devoted to jury selection. Judge Sedwick used the same process he used in the Kott and Anderson trials. The first part already happened - the elimination of potential jurists based on their questionnaires. From what I understand, those who expressed bias about the case there, have been eliminated. When I walked into court today, about 9:15 am, the gallery was packed by people with little blue stickers on their chests that said "Juror."
I missed the first part, but I imagine it was the same as the Kott trial - jurors were introduced to the various parties, told the charges, given instructions about their job and restrictions about talking to others or viewing news about the case. Another court observer told me that one of the potential witnesses, Fred James, was given permission to be in the courtroom for the jury selection process. He's one of the two writers of the USA v. Victor H. Kohring blog I mentioned yesterday. What I hadn't realized was that the two writers have different views on the defendant and the blog will reflect this. James, I was told, is a long time, good friend of Kohring's.
Anyway, the jury was sent out and then they were brought back in, one-at-a-time to answer questions about their awareness of the case, the people involved in the case, and whether they could be fair and unbiased. The basic questions the judge asked were:
1. Where do you get your news?
2. Do you remember anything from the news about Kohring or Veco, Bill Allen, Rick Smith?
If they did, then
3. What do you know, have you formed an opinion, could you give a fair hearing. One question he asked along these lines to one or two jurors was, "If you were the defendant, would you want someone like you on the jury?"
Most of the jurors said they don't pay much attention to politics and don't know much or anything about the case. My sense this time round - I stayed for the first 29 jurors and the lunch break - was that even when they said they knew nothing, they tended not to be as oblivious as that suggested. When pressed they often knew something
Two jurors, while I was there, were dismissed. One because she had a back problem and sitting for long times caused her pain. Another, a full time student who works full time hadn't asked to be dismissed. The judge asked if this would affect his studies. He said he'd miss some midterms. The judge asked why he hadn't asked to get out. "Several people told me it wouldn't do any good." The judge said, "Well this court is a little friendlier. A two day trial would be ok, but a two week trial would really affect your studies. I'm going to excuse you."
One juror met Rick Smith, a likely witness, smoking outside Reilly's Bar several times. Another juror who works at Cal Worthington Ford, met Bill Allen there. A third juror had been at meetings of his Community Council when Vic Kohring attended. Alaska is a small place.
The jury looked different from the Anderson and Kott jury pools. The most striking difference was the relative balance of genders. The Kott trial ended up with ten women and two men. But today, in the first 29 jurors questioned, 15 were men, 14 were women. There were two African Americans, a person from Bethel and one from Unalaska, if I understood right. The ages of the jurors seemed more evenly distributed than the prior two jurors - the Anderson jury being particularly young looking. And there was even one gentleman who had on a tie!
John Henry Browne
For me the big unknown was the defense attorney. When I walked in, I saw him from behind and thought he was younger until he turned and faced the gallery. He was wearing what looked like an expensive light grey suit with just a touch of green. His shirt was just barely pink. The prosecutors, in comparison, were in dark, dark grey to black suits with white shirts, except for Mr. Goeke who had a beige shirt. Even Agent Mary Beth Kepner [Thanks, Steve, I was getting tired when I did that] had on a grey suit. And Mr. Browne's hair also looked expensive - basically brown with what would have been called surfer blond streaks where I grew up near Venice Beach. OK, I know what some of you are thinking. But this is not intended as a fashion evaluation of the attorneys. I do think, however, that the dress does tell us something about people. Browne very definitely pays attention to how he looks. He also has trouble talking without moving. If his arms aren't moving, or his hands, then his fingers are moving. A few times I could even see the muscles in his back moving through his jacket. And this was just very low key questions to the jury.
His voice is radio quality deep and his intonation is precise, more articulated than most American speakers naturally talk. Perhaps he's done some acting or had other voice coaching.
When he asked questions of the jurors, or even when he didn't, he would say, "Good morning" in the same exact tone which sounded warm and interested the first time, but after hearing it repeated precisely many times, it began to sound canned. For two jurors, he said something like, "Your comments were much more extensive than the other jurors" which I thought sounded like calculated flattery, and which caused Prosecutor Botinni to object to the "unnecessary editorial comments" about juror performance. The judge concurred.
He also addressed the court twice, between jurors, with two questions that I thought seemed inappropriate. The first time he wanted to know about jurors who came from outside of Anchorage - who paid for them? (The court pays their airfare and hotel, but they don't go back for weekends the judge replied.) The second question was whether the jurors came from all of Alaska. The judge explained that they only came from the Anchorage district, which was a large district, stretching from Cordova to the Aleutians. It just seemed to me that these were curiosity items, that I would have written down and checked on later. Or, as the Outside defense attorney, I would have found out before the trial. And being an Outside attorney - the local attorney Wayne Anthony Ross was not there today - he wouldn't understand the implications of what local talk show hosts the jurors said they listened to.
Overall, his behavior reinforced the impression I've gotten in the pretrial press coverage. This is the Seattle attorney who is coming to the boondocks to try a case. If that really is the way he's thinking, I suspect he's in for a big surprise. Judge Sedwick has run very tight, but fair, trials. His excusing of the full time student today is an example of his practical understanding of what makes sense and what doesn't. The prosecution has done an overwhelming amount of work and have been extremely well prepared. The teams at the previous two trials were one local attorney and one from the DC based Public Integrity Section. These guys do their homework. The pairing for this trial is Joe Botinni, whose been in the Anchorage US Attorney Office for many years, and Edward P. Sullivan from DC. On the other hand, it does seem that the taped evidence is likely to be not as damaging as in the other cases, and that Kohring might appear to have been less calculating than Kott or Anderson in working out ways to get paid. We will see.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The article is interesting to me also in what it tells us about Kohring's defense attorney. He's not going to be the polite, cooperative colleague that Kott attorney Wendt was. He's may even make Anderson's attorney look warm and fuzzy. Lisa Demer further on in the article gives us Defense attorney John Henry Browne's (see a little about him in an earlier post):
Browne [Kohring's attorney] said Friday it won't be a big deal if the judge follows the recommendation and allows the evidence.
"My opinion is that Mr. Kohring didn't say anything incriminating to begin with," he said. "But I was just filing the motions in order to be a good lawyer and to make a record because I think what the government did when they told him 'You give us consent or we'll use the search warrant' is not legal."
If it won't be a big deal, then why file the motion? One big gain Browne gets by filing the motion is learning the government's version of this story. Up til the government filed their argument against the motion, he mainly had his own client's version of events. Now he gets to go into court a little better prepared knowing where the prosecutors agree with his client and where and how they don't. Fewer surprises. And saying, "It won't be a big deal" sounds like he's putting the best spin on losing, when he actually got what he needed when the government filed its argument. At least that's one interpretation of this action.
But I'm still scratching my head about this part:
Prosecutors wanted Browne to agree to allow a single FBI agent to authenticate any secretly made recordings involving Kohring before they are played for jurors.
No way, Browne responded.
That means prosecutors must call as witnesses an FBI employee directly involved with any recording they want jurors to hear. Agents from all over the country were involved in monitoring telephone calls of Veco Corp. executives as well as happenings in Suite 604 of the Baranof Hotel.
But this isn't all of the story. On the ADN Alaska politics blog Demer added a little more to this story.
Browne says in an e-mail that he filed in court on Thursday.
"I am not trying to be difficult but the GOVERNMENT is trying to put my client, who never voted for Veco, or promised to vote for Veco, in Prison. This allegation is based on the ATTEMPT to BORROW a pick-up truck, an internship that his nephew was qualified for (and brought up by Smith and Allen) and personal gifts of under $1,000. Sorry, but if that what the Government wants to do then the Government is going to have to work for it and spend every last dime of the taxpayers money doing so."
He signs it "Respectfully, JHB."
OK, his job as the Defense attorney is to give his client the best case he can. And he's reminding the taxpayers that they are paying for the government to railroad his innocent client. But given the previous two trials and Governor Palin's ability to ride the anti-corruption wave into greater than 85% popularity I'm not sure that's going to sell. People may think that forcing the FBI to fly up countless agents is just a waste of everyone's time and money. The defense in the Kott case agreed to the the arrangement the government proposed - to allow one agent to certify all the tapes. And Judge Sedwick has proven to be a very practical judge and interested in doing things efficiently, as long as the effect is neutral. On the other hand if an agent or two is unable to get to court on time and that results some tapes not being played, that helps his client, but not necessarily justice.
On the other hand, the first responder to Demer's blog post suggested the Alaska attorneys might have too cozy a relationship with the prosecutors:
Wise move not to hire an Alaskan attorney, must have found out that the only difference in prosecutor and defense attorneys in AK is who signs the paycheck and where they got their designer suit. They have to work together every day, something as insignificant as a man's life and future just gets in the way of court house harmony and future private practices. Finding "friendlier" barristers is practically unheard of. Sort of like letting the foxes run the henhouse.But then only one of the one prosecutor will be from Alaska, the other is from DC.
It's highly unlikely that any of the jury will have read the article, let alone the blog comment so they won't be prejudiced by that. But if Browne says things like that in court, and appears to be dragging things out just for the sake of making the Prosecution work harder, I suspect the jury will see through that.