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ANCHORAGE - Two former Alaska state lawmakers could be released from prison soon after a federal appeals court Wednesday ordered their corruption convictions reviewed.
The orders were expected after the U.S. Justice Department last week concluded prosecutors improperly handled evidence in the 2007 trials of former Alaska House Speaker Pete Kott and former Rep. Vic Kohring, both Republicans.
U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick on Wednesday ordered U.S. marshals to transport Kott and Kohring from federal prisons to Anchorage as soon as is reasonable for bail hearings. Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had asked that the former lawmakers be released on their own recognizance.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier in the day granted Kott's request for bail, subject to terms set by Sedwick. The judges ordered the immediate release of Kohring, again with Sedwick setting conditions.
"I'm happy that it was done quickly," said John Henry Browne, Kohring's attorney, reached by phone in Washington state.
The U.S. attorneys involved in the cases of Kott and Kohring also helped prosecute former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. A jury found the longtime Republican lawmaker guilty in October on seven counts of lying on financial disclosure forms. A judge dismissed the case in April, saying prosecutors withheld evidence.
A key witness in all three trials was Bill Allen, one of Alaska's richest men and founder of VECO Corp., a former Alaska company that performed maintenance, design and construction contracts for petroleum producers.
Kott, a seven-term former lawmaker who affectionately referred to Allen as "Uncle Bill," was convicted of accepting nearly $9,000, a $2,750 political poll and a job promise from Allen.
Kohring, a seven-term representative, was convicted of taking at least $2,600 that Allen testified he handed over because Kohring was short on money for food and lodging. One prosecutor said Kohring treated Allen like a human ATM machine.