Kohring arguments for new trial rejected

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Former state Rep. Vic Kohring's arguments for a new trial were soundly rejected Monday, and his sentencing date was set for May 8.

Kohring, convicted in November of federal bribery and two extortion charges, had claimed 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. Kohring sought a new trial, or a new evidentiary hearing, and Sedwick's recusal.

In a 29-page opinion filed Monday, and signed by Sedwick, the U.S. District Court dismissed all of Kohring's claims.

"Certain allegations made by Kohring are either inaccurate, misleading, or conclusions without any evidentiary support," Sedwick wrote in the opinion.

A message left Monday at the Seattle office of Kohring's attorney, John Henry Browne, was not immediately returned. Kohring has no telephone listing.

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 has described Deborah Sedwick as "my worst political rival and enemy," but the judge said the dispute was nothing more than political differences and there was nothing in the record to "support such remarkable hyperbole."

"The court concludes that given all the circumstances, no fully-informed, thoughtful person would see the situation for anything other than this: Ten years ago, Kohring and Ms. Sedwick held different views of what was in the public interest with respect to the budgeting for and operation of certain state departments," he wrote. "Objectively viewed, there was no personal animosity, but rather a difference of political opinion."

He also said if one could somehow assume she harbored personal antagonism toward Kohring, "there is no basis upon which an informed and thoughtful person could possibly conclude that the ill-will was so pervasive and deep-seated that it has lived on for nearly a decade."

Kohring also had claimed the judge was biased because he has relationships with the government's star witnesses: Sedwick lives near former VECO Corp. executive Bill Allen, and went to school with Rick Smith, a former vice president for VECO, a former oil field services company.

That, too, was rejected. Sedwick wrote that Kohring cited no case where a mere acquaintance or prior association with a witnesses is sufficient cause for recusal. Besides, he noted, he was the one who signed the order allowing their phones to be tapped, ultimately leading to their downfalls.

Smith and Allen pleaded guilty last year to bribing Alaska elected officials. Their sentencings have been delayed as they continue to work as prosecution witnesses in the ongoing federal investigation of corruption in Alaska politics.

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