U.S. District Judge John Sedwick on Friday granted former state representative Bruce Weyhrauch of Juneau a May 9 trail date in the Capital City.
Weyhrauch had filed a motion in the Unites States District Court at Anchorage on Feb. 4 to move his corruption trial to Juneau. The motion went unopposed by federal prosecutors.
Weyhrauch is one of seven lawmakers charged in an extensive federal government sweep know as “Operation Polar Pen” which led to charges against seven former lawmakers, including the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, fellow legislators Pete Kott, Vic Kohring, and Tom Anderson, and former VECO chief Bill Allen and his associate, Rick Smith. Those charges led to five trials, with Weyhrauch’s the final one.
Weyhrauch was originally charged in 2007 alongside Kott in connection with a scandal involving oilfield company VECO’s attempts to buy government favors in Alaska. He was indicted for conspiracy, extortion, bribery and fraud.
That four-count indictment was for secretly trying to get legal work for his law firm from VECO in 2006 at the same time VECO officials were actively lobbying to lower oil company taxes. The investigation began in 2004.
Federal prosecutors allege Weyhrauch tried to get a job performing legal work for a wealthy businessman, Bill Allen, who was working to influence oil tax rates that the Alaska Legislature was in the midst of changing.
Weyhrauch and Kott’s cases were separated, a reason he cited for moving the trial to Juneau, as the complexities of codefendants no longer existed.
Also, Stevens’ conviction was dismissed due to government misconduct at trial. The federal prosecutors will fly in from out of state to Juneau, the site where many of the incidents are alleged to have occurred.
Weyhrauch’s motion states the length and complexity of the trial will be shorter in Juneau as most of the witnesses, including former Gov. Frank Murkowski and chief of staff Jim Clark, and his attorneys are in Juneau. It also states the ability of the Juneau court to support the trial and pre-trial publicity is not a determinative factor, and “prompt administration of justice” is best serviced by trial in Juneau.
Allen pleaded guilty in 2007 to conspiracy, bribery and tax violations and received a three-year sentence. Smith, his vice president for community affairs, pleaded guilty to the same charges and was sentenced to 21 months. Anderson was sentenced to five years for taking secret payments in return for pushing a private prison company’s interest in Alaska.
Kott was convicted of extortion, bribery and conspiracy and sentenced to 72 months. Kohring received a 42-month sentence for taking bribes. Both men were ordered released in June 2009 by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco when the Justice Department acknowledged it had failed to turn over favorable evidence before their 2007 trials.
Anderson’s release date was moved up to July 2010 for completing a substance abuse treatment program.
In granting Weyhrauch’s request, Sedwick left the original Anchorage trial date intact and jury selection will be scheduled to start the morning of May 9.
Phone messages to Weyhrauch from the Juneau Empire were not returned by press time.
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.