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Federal judge moves retrials of former Alaska lawmakers from Anchorage to Fairbanks

Posted: August 13, 2011 - 10:51pm

JUNEAU — A federal judge on Friday ordered that the retrials of former Alaska lawmakers Pete Kott and Victor Kohring be held in Fairbanks.

Kott and Kohring were among those caught up in a wide-ranging corruption probe that also ensnared then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Earlier this year, Kott and Kohring each had their convictions on corruption charges overturned and appeals court judges ordered a new trial after finding prosecutorial errors. That was the same reason that a federal judge, years earlier, tossed Stevens’ conviction.

Kott, through an attorney, had asked to have his new trial moved out of Anchorage, or out of state, because of “inflammatory” media coverage. Kohring claimed the same in seeking to have his case heard out of state.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said in similarly worded, separate orders Friday that he believed with time and effort, unbiased juries could be found in Anchorage.

However, he said concerns raised by Kott and Kohring aren’t without merit, considering what he called considerable post-trial publicity. He said neither Kott nor Kohring has been tried in Fairbanks and neither is personally known there. He ordered the trials be moved “in an abundance of caution.”

Beistline found holding the trials out of the state inappropriate.

Kott was convicted of conspiracy, extortion and bribery in a case stemming from maneuverings around oil tax legislation in 2006. He went to prison for a six-year sentence but was released when prosecutors acknowledged they hadn’t turned over evidence favorable to the defense.

Kohring was convicted in 2007 of conspiracy to commit extortion, attempted extortion and bribery, and sentenced to 31/2 years in prison. He was released in 2009 while his case underwent review.

Trials for both men are scheduled to begin later this year.

Kohring has asked, through his attorney, that the charges against him be updated. Kott’s attorneys are seeking to have charges against him dismissed.

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