Federal prosecutors contest Kohring's appeal for new trial

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Former state Rep. Vic Kohring used erroneous information in his attempt for a new trial on corruption charges, according to federal prosecutors opposing the bid.

Kohring, convicted in November of bribery and two extortion charges, claims U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick was biased because of Kohring's "extremely antagonistic relationship" with Sedwick's wife, Deborah, a former state commissioner.

In a 17-page court document filed Monday, prosecutors said Kohring's allegations were made too late. The claims are without merit, do not justify a new trial and are "nothing more than wild conjecture based on erroneous and stale information," prosecutors said.

Kohring's lawyer, John Henry Browne of Seattle, said Kohring's request will continue.

"I certainly hope the judge takes this more seriously than the government does," Browne told the Anchorage Daily News in a voice mail message. "Their brief is full of sarcasm and completely ignores the standard of law to be applied."

Kohring's motion, filed Feb. 1, said the Wasilla Republican sponsored legislation that resulted in Sedwick's wife losing her job and taking a $10,000-a-year pay cut for a lesser position.

That account is disputed by state officials with what is now the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

The 1999 legislation led to the merger of two state departments. While Deborah Sedwick's job as commissioner of one department was technically eliminated, she ended up as commissioner of the revamped agency. Her pay went up over the years, not down.

"Kohring, at best, has tendered only rumors, innuendoes, and unsupported allegations," said assistant U.S. attorney Joe Bottini and Edward Sullivan, of the U.S. Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, in their filing.

They noted that Sedwick earlier this month said he had no recollection of talking with his wife or anyone else about the actions of Kohring. He also said he did not remember Kohring being involved, prosecutors wrote.

In an interview earlier this month, Kohring described Deborah Sedwick as his "worst political rival and enemy." In court, he filed a press release from 1998 in which he likened the spending habits of state employees to that of "drunken sailors" and said that Deborah Sedwick had called his proposed budget cuts "draconian" and "devastating."

The government was unable to find that old press release in archives on Kohring's legislative Web site even though others were still available there.

Prosecutors also noted that Kohring's motion to dismiss the case came three months after a jury convicted him of bribery, conspiracy and attempted extortion, and just days before he was to be sentenced. The usual deadline for such motions is seven days after the verdict. Kohring said he did not make the connection between his political rival and the judge until after his trial.

Kohring also is questioning whether the judge is biased because Sedwick lives across the street from Bill Allen, the former chairman of VECO Corp. and a key government witness. Also, Sedwick went to high school with another government witness, former VECO vice president Rick Smith.

There's no evidence Sedwick and Allen "have had any interaction whatsoever," prosecutors wrote, and it's the same with Sedwick and Smith.

Prosecutors are seeking a five-year prison term for Kohring. The judge delayed the sentencing until he rules on the question of bias.

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