WASILLA - State Rep. Vic Kohring said Tuesday that he will resign from the Legislature so that he can concentrate on proving he's innocent of federal bribery and extortion charges.
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Kohring, R-Wasilla, read from a prepared speech as he told a banquet room filled with more than 200 people attending a Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce luncheon that he would step down July 19.
"Resigning by no means suggests guilt. It simply means I take the federal charges extremely seriously and intend to make every effort to prove I'm innocent in court," Kohring said. "I honestly in my heart feel that I am innocent."
Kohring and two former state lawmakers were indicted May 4 on federal bribery and extortion charges related to alleged dealings with Anchorage-based oil field services company VECO Corp.
Also charged were former Republican Reps. Pete Kott and Bruce Weyhrauch. All have pleaded not guilty and have had their original July trial dates pushed back to the fall.
"I take the job as a legislator very seriously, but my life is on the line, so I have chosen to defend myself so I can prevail in court," Kohring told The Associated Press earlier in the day. "It's a very, very ugly decision to have to make, frankly."
Kohring was elected to the Legislature in 1994 and has been re-elected every two years since then. About half the people attending the luncheon gave Kohring a standing ovation.
Kohring told the Chamber of Commerce gathering that the 30 days would give him time to complete unfinished business with his constituents. He said the special legislative session Gov. Sarah Palin is calling beginning June 26 to discuss senior benefits did not factor into his decision to stay for the month.