Friends of ex-Rep. Kohring urge leniency in sentence

Posted: Sunday, May 04, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Friends of former state Rep. Vic Kohring are urging leniency when he's sentenced Thursday on federal corruption charges.

A jury in November determined that Kohring had conspired with executives of an oil field services company, VECO Corp., to push through an oil tax favored by North Slope producers. Kohring was convicted of bribery, conspiracy and attempted extortion.

Kohring's attorney in a sentencing memorandum said Kohring was naive and accepted gifts of cash from former VECO chief Bill Allen, a man he thought was his friend, but that he did not do favors in return.

When he was captured on FBI surveillance recordings asking what he could do for Allen, he was extending the same offer to help he made to everyone, lawyer John Henry Browne wrote.

Kohring, 49, has the backing of former Anchorage Mayor Tom Fink.

"I'm convinced he is not guilty of taking action in the Legislature in return for a bribe or gift," Fink wrote. "He is guilty of the dumb and naive appearances of such activity."

Kohring was elected seven times.

Prosecutors want U.S. District Judge John Sedwick to sentence Kohring to five years and three years probation. According to the prosecutors' tally, Kohring received or sought "corrupt benefits" that topped $24,000. They want him fined $24,244.

Browne asked that Kohring serve eight months in prison and another eight on probation.

Browne contends Kohring received less than $5,000. He and prosecutors disagree over whether Kohring's unsuccessful attempt to get $17,000 from Allen to pay off credit card debt should count, as well as whether money earned by Kohring's nephew in a VECO internship should be counted.

"The gifts had no impact on Mr. Kohring's decisions and thus caused no harm to the state of Alaska," Browne wrote.

Browne contends that what Kohring did was not nearly as bad as the actions of two other former Alaska representatives now in prison on corruption charges.

Former Anchorage Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Anchorage, was sentenced to five years for a scheme to help a private prison company.

Former House Speaker Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, was convicted of federal corruption charges related to the oil tax and was sentenced to six years in prison. Kott is appealing.

Kohring will appeal too, Browne said.

Kohring is now broke and jobless, Browne wrote. He sold his Wasilla home, cashed out his state retirement benefits and borrowed $100,000 from family and friends to defend himself. His wife may file for divorce, Browne wrote. A court clerk in Washington County, Ore., where his wife lives, said the divorce case was filed in March.

Kohring is living in Wasilla with his elderly parents. Both have serious health issues and depend on their son, Browne wrote.

Other supporters include Kohring's longtime friend, Fred James.

"Vic is the type of man who will never play chess well because he cannot hide his emotions," James wrote. He described Kohring as a decent, honest man whose word is "good as gold."

A.C. Buswell III of Wasilla, who said he's known Kohring since grade school, wrote that he would watch over the former lawmaker as a third party custodian if the judge would allow it.



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