JUNEAU — A former Alaska lawmaker was given a suspended three-month jail sentence and fined $1,000 Tuesday as part of a plea agreement that will spare him from a federal corruption case.
Bruce Weyhrauch had pleaded guilty to participating in, aiding or abetting a person who is lobbying but not registered to do so. He had faced the possibility of up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Weyhrauch was among a group of Alaska lawmakers caught up in a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that also ensnared U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who was killed last year in a plane crash.
Stevens was convicted on counts of lying on financial disclosure forms about gifts, which ended his political career in 2008. But a federal judge later threw out the matter, finding prosecutors had withheld evidence at trial.
At least two other former state lawmakers, Victor Kohring and Pete Kott, have also alleged that prosecutors withheld evidence. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week tossed Kohring’s conviction and ordered a new trial. Kott, with whom Weyhrauch was indicted, is seeking a similar result.
Weyhrauch, who was preparing for a trial in May, vigorously denied the federal charges against him, including that he had sought legal work from oilfield services company VECO when it was lobbying the Legislature on oil taxes during the 2006 legislative session. Weyhrauch was a state representative at the time.
Weyhrauch attorney Ray Brown said Weyhrauch sent letters to many people advertising his legal practice that were “virtually identical” to one he sent VECO’s CEO at the time and broke no state rules in doing so. Brown said Weyhrauch never asked for and never received any money from the CEO, Bill Allen.
Another attorney for Weyhrauch, Douglas Pope, said prosecutors also withheld evidence in Weyhrauch’s case. He said serious talks toward settling the case began late last year, after a new team of prosecutors came in and they were pressed by the defense to take another look at the evidence.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice declined comment beyond the information presented in court.
The department filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss the federal indictment against Weyhrauch. A magistrate, after reviewing the matter, recommended dismissal but a district judge will have the final say.
The criminal information filed in the state case alleges Weyhrauch let two individuals lobby him, though they were not registered to do so, and claims there was a “substantial probability” that Weyhrauch knew this. Court records identify the two as Allen and Richard Smith, also a VECO executive.
Prosecutors gave no recommendation on sentencing, while the defense sought a suspended imposition of sentencing, which could have had Weyhrauch facing no penalty if he successfully completed a probationary period.
Brown told state Judge Keith Levy on Tuesday that Weyhrauch had suffered enough. He said Weyhrauch, an attorney, had been the target of harassing phone calls, endured irreparable emotional and professional harm and incurred more than $300,000 in defense costs to fight federal allegations that he and Weyhrauch vigorously denied.
“He has been put through hell,” Brown said, adding later: “And I think that’s enough. It’s certainly enough to deter anybody from doing anything at any time.”
Levy said that while much of the discussion was on the federal indictment, that wasn’t a factor in his decision. Levy said the count constituted a serious offense, a violation of the public trust. And he did not grant the request for a suspended imposition of sentence, which he said is often reserved for youthful offenders.
Pope called the outcome fair.
Weyhrauch spent much of the hearing gazing down at the table. When asked if he wished to make a statement, he asserted his innocence on the federal charges, said the press had bungled the reporting on the case, and he accepted responsibility for the crime to which he pleaded guilty.
“And I’m sorry, sorry,” he said.
In a brief statement to reporters after court, he said that what the federal government did to him it could do to anyone. With his wife at his side, he said he looked forward to spending time with his family.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.