Weyhrauch loses appeal; looks to Supreme Court

Former lawmaker's attorney says case may hinge on ruling

Posted: Friday, January 09, 2009

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a request from former state Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, a Juneau Republican, to overturn a critical ruling against him.

Weyhrauch was indicted on corruption charges in connection with VECO Corp.'s efforts to win lower gas and oil taxes for its business partners in the oil industry.

FBI agents searched Weyhrauch's Capitol office in 2006, but he was not indicted until 2007. He has yet to go to trial, due to protracted debates between federal prosecutors and Weyhrauch's attorney, Douglas Pope of Anchorage, over what evidence can be admitted.

In December a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit overturned a lower court ruling in Weyhrauch's favor, and instead sided with prosecutors. Pope asked for a rehearing or a hearing "en banc," meaning by the full court.

Wednesday, the court declined to reconsider its ruling in favor of the prosecutors.

Weyhrauch's only way of preventing the evidence being introduced is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, an avenue that Pope had earlier said he expected and planned to pursue.

At issue is whether prosecutors can introduce evidence about Alaska's conflict of interest rules for legislators. Weyhrauch said he has complied with the state's conflict of interest rules.

Federal prosecutors said Weyhrauch voted and took other official action on behalf of VECO, while at the same time negotiating a future job with the company.

Control of a natural gas pipeline and oil taxes worth tens of billions of dollars were at stake at the time.

Both Pope and prosecutors have said the outcome of the case may hinge on the admissibility of the conflict of interest rules.

It may take months before the Supreme Court announces whether it will agree to hear the case.

Weyhrauch's codefendant, former House Speaker Pete Kott, a Republican from Eagle River and Juneau, is serving time in federal prison in Oregon.

Numerous other legislators, lobbyists, and executives are also serving sentences or have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

• Contact reporterPat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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